"Crisis Level" Increases in Processing Times
Many of you have heard people talk about the immigration system being "broken." What do they mean by this? Well, they could be referring to any of the numerous processes or programs that have recently undergone changes from the government. This changes any given day, week or month. For example, this month a comment about the broken system could have been referring to the H1B or the H4 process being overhauled to prevent immigrants and their families from being able to easily move forward with their jobs and lives. In January this could have referred to recent changes in the asylum process that has affected so many caravans of people clamoring at the borders for entry. Or, maybe this was a reference to the DACA process that has been involved in litigation for more than a year. The attempted elimination of TPS designations for several Central American countries as well as Haiti the last year also could be part of the discussion. What most people don't think of, however, is that all of these broken processes share a commonality that might be a more significant example of the broken system. I am referring to the bureaucratic review process that all applicants must go through to obtain an approval which is becoming worse as the days go by. USCIS was created by Congress to administer the efficient processing of immigration-related benefits and applications. The function of USCIS was administrative in nature, but has become more of a bureaucratic watch-dog whose primary purpose has shifted to finding ways of denying requests rather than assisting applicants in obtaining legally compliant approvals. This change has occurred slowly over the last few years, but more dramatically within the last two. For example, since 2014, processing times have increased overall by 91% and 46%. within the last two years. This has caused significant problems for families, individuals and businesses alike and does not show any signs of changing since the huge increase in delays in FY2018 occurred while filings have declined. So, it is not an increased numbers issue, but a shift in the attitude of the government towards immigrants. If this attitude does not change back to supporting and serving applicants, families and businesses, there will be no fixing the broken immigration system.
Proposal to Eliminate the H-4 EADs Moves Forward
The government is one step closer to eliminating the ability of HB-1 visa holder spouses to work while waiting to become eligible for green cards. The proposal was submitted to the House Office of Management and Budget and it is going through the formal process of becoming a rule. The question for many individuals is: What will happen to a pending application? According to a statement from USCIS, the agency "continues reviewing all employment-based visa programs. No decision about the regulation concerning the employment eligibility of certain H-4 spouses is final until the rule making process is complete.”
Considering the current immigration climate, it is very hard to predict what will be the course of action by USCIS when and if the rule goes into effect.
USCIS Closes Offices in Moscow
Caused by the significant decrease in workload, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will close its field office in Moscow, Russia permanently on March 29th, 2019. The office will be open to the public and is accepting applications until Feb. 28th, 2019. The USCIS office in Athens, Greece will assume jurisdiction over immigration matters in the following places: Russian Federation, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. The Moscow U.S. Embassy will assume responsibility for certain limited services that were previously provided by the USCIS to individuals residing in Russia. The USCIS Refugee Affairs Division will assume primary responsibility for adjudicating refugee cases presented for interviews in the region.
Beginning on March 1, 2019, individuals who live in the countries that were aforementioned must follow new filing instructions that will be released by the Athens office.