In immigration laws, there is a certain number of green cards or immigrant visas that may be issued each year, which are further broken down by the country of origin of the applicant for permanent residency. There are generally 226,000 available for family-sponsored permanent residents, and 140,000 available for employment-sponsored permanent residents. The law can get a bit tricky, and digging into the weeds shows us why the Department of State or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is only just starting to adjudicate applications for, for example, married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico that were filed in May of 1997, why a recent estimate shows a backlogged employment-based application from India is expected to face a wait of 84 years to be adjudicated, and why the idea of “chain migration” is a boogeyman that does not truly exist if one looks at how the law actually works.
Regardless though, this year especially, USCIS is not on track to even adjudicate the bare minimum number of green cards available. If they do not adjudicate all of the green cards available, many of those available numbers will simply disappear due to a quirk in the law, leading to even larger backlogs and longer wait times. Joseph & Hall, along with our litigation partners, have already filed a lawsuit to prevent this, but regardless, as things currently stand, dire consequences await hundreds of thousands of immigrants if USCIS is not able to speed their adjudications up.
USCIS knows this, and have implemented several new procedures and policies to attempt to adjudicate as many applications as they possibly can. They have temporarily extended the validity dates of medical exams, which typically would not be filed with an initial application due to how soon they would expire. There are reports that interviews are being scheduled in the early mornings, on Saturdays, and even outside of an office’s jurisdiction where workload can be spread out. Interview for employment based-petitions are largely being waived to permit the approval of applications at service centers without the need for file transfers. And, at least from my experience, interviews for applications that would not immediately result in the issuance of a green card are being delayed outside of the timeframe one would normally expect.
In the end, we can hope that as many applications are processed as possible, and we’ll be taking the fight to federal court, but keep an eye out for what happens to the visa bulletin on October 1st. We may see some dates massively shift as the new fiscal year begins for the federal government.
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