Current Processing Delays caused by COVID-19


Current Processing Delays caused by COVID-19

by Lisa York

by Lisa York

While the processing of immigration applications was already severely delayed prior to the COVID pandemic, the problem has reached records levels since 2020.

Pre-COVID Processing Backlog:                   

USCIS:  5.7 Million Applications                   

DOS: 60,900 Interviews (wait for in-person interview)

Current Processing Backlog:

USCIS: 9.5 Million Applications

DOS: 532,000 Interviews (wait for in-person interview)

Processing Delays for Certain Petitions/Applications:   

  • I-485 Green card, based on family petitions in Denver (17 months)
  • I-90 Green card Renewal (15 months)
  • I-129 Fiancé Visa (10 months) 
  • I-130 Petition for Immediate Relative (10 months)
  • I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions  (17.5 months)
  • I-765 Work Authorization based on pending I-485 (15 months)
  • I-765 Work Authorization based on approved DACA  (3 months)
  • I-601A Waiver (27 months)
  • I-131 Application for Advanced Parole (8 months)
  • I-131 Application for Travel Document  (9 months)
  • N-400 Application for Naturalization  (12 months)

These delays have resulted in unused green cards in family-based categories. These green cards were then made available to the employment-based categories but only 140,000 if the 226,000 unused green cards were used in the last fiscal year.  

Steps USCIS/DOS have taken to alleviate the backlog problem in Family-based petitions:  

  • USCIS is using biometrics from previous appointments/applications
  • USCIS increased staffing and overtime at Lockbox facilities 
  • DOS will waive in-person interviews for green card applicants who were already issued visas but could not move to US due to COVID travel restrictions        
  • USCIS extended work authorization from 1 to 2 years for refugees, asylees, and parolees
  • USCIS reduced in-person interviews for refugees and asylees applying to sponsor spouses or children
  • USCIS is conducting remote interviews for refugees and asylees

Unfortunately, without extreme policy changes and modernization of the immigration system by congress, the effect of processing delays due to COVID will likely impact all immigration applications for the next decade.