Climate Change Within USCIS

Attorney Laura Hartz and Senior Immigration Paralegal Robin Vermette attended this year’s American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Annual Conference in Florida.  A common theme was the change in climate at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office, shown as an across the board increase in Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and denials of petitions, particularly for H-1B petitions.  For example:

  • In 2015, 22.3% of the H-1B cases filed received RFEs, and 16.8 % of those cases with RFEs were denied.
  • In 2018, 38% of the H-1B cases filed received RFEs, and 37.6% of those cases with RFEs were denied.
  • After 2019’s first three quarters, the numbers of RFEs and denials are already higher than 2018: 39.6% received RFEs and 37.3% of those were denied.

In addition, people applying for family-based benefits, employment-based benefits, naturalization, travel documents, and employment authorization are experiencing exorbitantly long processing delays.  According to an AILA Policy Brief, the overall average processing time surged by 46% over the past two years and 91% since 2014.  In FY2018 an astounding 94% of all immigration petitions took longer to process compared to FY2014 processing times.

Despite the proven value that immigrants bring to the U.S., this Administration has adopted policies and procedures that restrict and delay the pace of legal immigration. Many of these policy changes are due to Executive Order 13788, “Buy American and Hire American” (BAHA), which also targets the H-1B visa program.  As a result, the uncertainty and unpredictability of the legal immigration process is discouraging to the business community.

In spite of the gloom, our Immigration Team continues to work tirelessly on behalf of our clients in pursuit of approvals.  Fortunately, our longstanding clients understand that when an RFE appears, it is not because of the employer or the law firm, it is the new climate within USCIS.  We will continue to guide our clients through the process and set reasonable expectations.  There may be obstacles along the way but the goal remains the same: help the client gain lawful status to live and work in the U.S.

About the Authors:  Laura Hartz and Robin Vermette

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