The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently announced that it is recovering from the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agency stated that complex challenges from a shift to remote work, staffing shortages, and budget shortfalls left the agency in dire straits during the pandemic. However, over the last two years, this has turned around. The USCIS touted its most notable success in using all available employment-based green card visas in the fiscal year 2022. Federal legislation limits the number of these visas that can be issued each year. These are 226,000 for family-based green cards and 140,000 for employment-based green cards.
Unused visas in one category often get transferred to another. For example, due to travel limitations, many family-based visas went unused during the pandemic. As a result, over 120,000 available family-based visas moved to the employment-based category in the fiscal year 2021. Unfortunately, processing delays wasted over 66,000 of these permits.
For the fiscal year 2022, 140,000 additional employment-based visas became available. As a result, the USCIS shifted its focus to ensuring they used all available visas. A USCIS representative admitted they could do nothing about backlogs resulting from statutory limitations. However, the agency can ensure that they use every allocated green card. In the last fiscal year, the agency affirmed this achievement as a key priority; the agency has since succeeded.
Estimates indicate that the number of unused visas for 2023 will likely be higher than before the pandemic. However, expectations reveal it will still be lower than the previous two fiscal years. These improvements also came at the trade-off of increased processing times for some categories.
Though the agency may have rebounded from the challenges of the pandemic, the USCIS still struggles with severe backlogs. Such struggles include over eight million pending applications, with roughly five million past their deadlines. These numbers significantly increased over the backlog of 2.7 million it held in mid-2019.
Regardless, the agency continues to address these challenges with various solutions. For example, it has introduced processing deadlines, hired additional staff, and handled some interviews through video calls. One of the agency’s biggest hopes for solving ongoing backlogs is moving from paper to digital filing.
This announcement makes for a promising trend for employers. With the improved numbers of accepted visas, employers will find it even more crucial to handle the hiring process correctly. One such step includes employment eligibility verification (Form I-9). The best way to ensure compliance with Form I-9 is to incorporate an electronic I-9 management system. This tool guides the user through the process, ensuring every form gets filled out correctly and completely. It also provides secure storage for all forms and documents.
When it comes to your work, automation makes eligibility verification quick and seamless. Get a head start today with I-9 Compliance.