The executive branch is planning long overdue measures to expedite FBI background checks. The changes will mandate that clearances be completed within a prescribed period of time.

The USCIS is required to conduct criminal background checks with the FBI. But prior to 2002, when the agency sent applicant information to the FBI, those applicants could be deemed cleared unless the FBI responded otherwise. This process was changed in 2002 to require an affirmative response from the FBI before an applicant could be further processed.

The proposed new changes have been prompted by a staggering and worsening backlog. In May 2007, USCIS reported a backlog of over 300,000 names in the FBI clearance process, onethird of which have been pending for over 12 months. Recent federal court decisions calling for expedited name checks—and in some cases indicating that the court would exercise its authority to adjudicate petitions in the absence of reasonable executive branch action—have further prompted the reform.