WASHINGTON – Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman) submitted its annual report to Congress which provides recommendations for creating a more effective and efficient system to better assist individuals and employers applying for immigration benefits with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This year’s report contains an overview of the CIS Ombudsman’s mission and services, USCIS’s programmatic and policy challenges during 2021 and early 2022, and a detailed discussion of pervasive problems, recommendations, and best practices in the administration of our immigration laws.
“There’s no greater barrier to the immigration process than the backlogs currently confronting USCIS,” said Phyllis A. Coven, CIS Ombudsman. “Our 2022 report examines the ‘snowball’ effects and pain points associated with USCIS’s unprecedented processing delays and recommends actions it can take to address the consequences that individuals and the agency have faced due to these delays.”
Highlights of the 2022 Annual Report include studies of:
- USCIS processing backlogs, their effects on individuals, employers, and agency operations, and what is required to address them in the long term.
- Delays in renewing employment authorization documents and recommendations for increasing flexibility in the renewal process, building on existing USCIS efforts to prevent gaps in employment.
- The advance parole request process and how to increase accessibility to legitimate travel for certain applicants with pending adjustment of status applications, including emergency travel.
- Challenges encountered by applicants requesting expedited processing and recommendations for improving access to and the transparency of USCIS’s expedite request process.
- USCIS’s affirmative asylum backlog—which now stands at over 430,000 cases—and recommendations for new operational approaches to improve the quality and efficiency of asylum adjudications.
- Barriers to obtaining proof of employment authorization for asylum applicants in removal proceedings.
- USCIS’s digital strategy and critical ongoing efforts to expand online filing and electronic processing, including a recommendation to develop an application programming interface for use by attorneys and service providers.
- Start-up challenges and successes of the new U nonimmigrant status bona fide determination process and its impact on the U visa backlog.
The report also includes summaries of the two formal recommendations previously issued to USCIS in 2022. The office’s recent recommendation on USCIS’s fee-for-service funding model concluded that the agency should reengineer its fee review process, seek appropriations to cover the cost of delivering humanitarian-related immigration benefits, and pursue additional authorities to provide for greater flexibility. Additionally, a beneficiary notification recommendation for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, urges USCIS to provide certain beneficiaries with documentation that the law requires them to have and which would help prevent unscrupulous employers from exploiting them.
Established by Congress as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the CIS Ombudsman operates as a liaison between the public and DHS on immigration benefits matters and is independent from USCIS. The CIS Ombudsman is dedicated to improving the quality of citizenship and immigration services delivered to the public by providing individual case assistance, identifying systemic issues, engaging with immigration stakeholders across the country, and making recommendations to improve the administration of immigration benefits by USCIS.
For more information and to read previous annual reports, visit the CIS Ombudsman’s Annual Report to Congress page.