U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is trying to approve as many employment-based green card applications as it can before the annual deadline of September 30, 2022 (the end of the fiscal year).
Primarily due to COVID-19 restrictions, approximately 140,000 family-based visa numbers went unused last fiscal year. As a result, these unused visa numbers were rolled over to this year’s employment-based visa number allocation; meaning, twice as many employment-based green cards are available this year.
USCIS and the Department of State (DOS) are primarily dealing with processing challenges and backlogs due to restraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other issues.
What are USCIS and DOS doing in order to appropriately issue all available employment-based visas and hit the 280,000 limit this year? Among other things, the agencies are:
- Prioritizing processing and adjudication of employment-based adjustment applications at all locations;
- Prioritizing adjudication of immigrant visa petitions (I-140s) to focus on beneficiaries who are or will be current this year;
- Providing overtime and supplemental USCIS staff to support the employment-based applications;
- Initiating an aggressive hiring and training plan for new staff;
- Waiving interviews and reusing biometrics, where possible;
- Redistributing cases to match workloads with resources;
- Establishing a dedicated mailing address for requests from those who wish to transfer their pending cases to a different employment-based category;
- Encouraging applicants who know their Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Records, are no longer valid to be prepared to submit a new medical as soon as they receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) (but not submit their I-693 before the RFE is issued);
- Proactively identifying applications that lack valid medicals and issuing early RFEs; and
- Temporarily waiving (until September 30, 2022) the requirement that the civil surgeon sign the Form I-693 no more than 60 days before the applicant files for adjustment of status.
DOS issued 19,799 immigrant visas and USCIS used 175,728 immigrant visas (through adjustment of status applications) for a total of 195,507 out of the available total of 262,288. Accordingly, 66,781 employment-based visas went unused. In comparison to this year, these respective agencies noted that, as of mid-June, they had used many more employment-based immigrant visas than they did at the same point in time last year, and they are continuing to adjudicate these respective applications at a higher rate than last year. According to USCIS, they are “well-positioned to use all the available employment-based immigrant visas in FY 2022 ….”