Its processing time 2 to 10 times longer than counterparts in other English-speaking nations, says Manhattan Institute.
- Those seeking to live, work, or study in the United States are waiting a combined 5.2 million years for responses to 8.3 million immigration forms
- Between 2014 and 2022, the weighted median processing time for all applications increased by 80 percent
- Many high-skilled immigrant applications that take several years in the US are processed within one business day in the United Kingdom.
These are some of the findings of a report published by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank focused on domestic policy and urban affairs, on December 22.
Authored by Daniel Di Martino, a PhD candidate at Columbia University and a graduate fellow at the Manhattan Institute, the report takes a cohesive look at the ongoing record backlog of immigration applications in the United States.
Comparing the nation’s immigration system with other countries, it says the US takes two to 10 times longer to process most employment and skills-based immigration applications than other rich English-speaking nations.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has been widely seen as the main reason for recent application backlogs, the report points out, “The pandemic slowed the processing of immigration applications but did not cause the current crisis, which was years in the making.”
In addition to highlighting reasons for immigration delays, the report also suggests a series of reforms that can be implemented by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to get out of the current crisis.
Some of the recommendations include expanding premium processing to all immigration benefits. By extending premium processing across categories would not only help the applicants but also USCIS by generating revenue for the agency that is totally financed by the funds generated through immigration related fees, the Institute says.
Doing so would provide USCIS with the necessary revenue to end backlog in four to seven years.
The author of the report suggests that the revenue from these new applications for premium processing should be used to hire new immigration officers.
The report also has another suggestion on employee shortages.
“USCIS should call on retired adjudicators to come back to the agency in a part or full- time capacity, giving them the option to collect retirement and additional pay, while the agency works on hiring and onboarding new staff to reduce backlogs,” it says.
It may be noted that during and after the pandemic-related closures, hundreds of thousands of Indians on work visas in the US faced challenges because of the rule that required that visas be stamped outside of the country.
Many could not visit their country for years, even in cases of emergencies due to non-availability of stamping dates. (Once they leave the United States, they cannot return to the US without stamping the visa on their passports.)
The report recognizes that high skilled immigrants benefit the labor-market. But restrictive immigration policies and immigration delays are now forcing many highly skilled foreigners to look at other countries.
It also says what immigration experts have been trying to advocate. “There is a strong case for admitting more high-skilled immigrants; but first, we need a simple, efficient, and modern bureaucracy to attract and select immigrants from the largest possible pool of highly skilled individuals,” it says.