How the US’ Immigration Paper Jam Could Cost You Months or Even Years
Are you trying to immigrate to the US, but have been waiting for months or even years? Like a number of other Western countries, the US is experiencing an enormous backlog of immigration applications. Read on to learn why this paper jam is affecting your application.
The Scope of the Problem
Since 2005, the US federal immigration court system‘s workload has increased exponentially, to 146%. As of the end of July 2015, there were over 450,000 active cases.
What about people who aren’t applying for asylum? They face lengthy wait times as well. According to Stuart Anderson, a writer for Forbes, there were approximately 500,000 people who had applied for employment-based green cards (the permanent residency document in the US) by November 2014 and had been waiting somewhere between six to ten years.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the government division responsible for handling immigration claims, is aware there’s a problem. And while government officials have taken steps to reduce the backlog, the challenge has overwhelmed them. The last time the USCIS provided an update on its attempts to tackle its backlog was in December 2006.
The History of the Problem
Part of the problem stems from a law passed in 1952. The Immigration and Nationality Act limits the number of immigration visas that the US can issue during a fiscal year (which runs from October 1st to September 30th).
Under the law, applicants from one country can’t have more than a specific percentage of the total number of annual immigration visas. What if those limits are exceeded? The USCIS places applicants on a waiting list.
The other part of the problem is intricately tied to the priority the US places on national security. Since 2005, the number of border agents has nearly doubled to 21,000. Between 2002 and 2013, the budgets for immigration enforcement increased 300%. In contrast, budgets for immigration courts during that same time period rose 70%. Elected officials spend a great deal of time talking about the need to strengthen immigration enforcement, but they ignore the issue of people trying to enter the US legally.
Good News on the Horizon?
In December 2015, Juan Osuna, director of the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), testified at a Congressional committee hearing that immigration court backlogs should begin to decrease. The EOIR is a division of the US Department of Justice that oversees immigration courts.
Osuna remarked that an increase in funding from Congress enabled the EOIR to hire more immigration judges. The hiring freeze between 2011 and 2015 hindered the EOIR’s ability to improve the backlog. More immigration judges on the bench means that the overburdened court system will be able to process more cases.
What Can You Do about the Backlog?
While an increase in immigration court judges is a welcome development, it will take time for the current backlog of immigration cases to significantly diminish. Immigrants anxious to enter the US or to obtain legal status might ask, “Is there any way I can jump the queue?”
Unfortunately, there isn’t much immigrants can do, except to play the waiting game. One avenue available to them is to file an Immigration Visa Petition in a higher preference category.
The US wants immigrants with the skills and knowledge to push the economy forward. Its immigration visa system gives higher preference to those individuals. There are three employment-based preference categories.
Let’s say you’ve applied for an EB-3 visa. This type of visa has the lowest bar for entry – you must be a professional working in a position that requires at least a bachelor’s degree or you must be a skilled worker in a position that demands at least two years of experience or training. You’re stuck in the massive backlog. If you qualify for an EB-2 or EB-1 visa (which have requirements that are more difficult to meet), you can file an Immigration Visa Petition in one of those preference categories. This isn’t an option which is available to many people, because there are very few people who are eligible for EB-2 or EB-1 visas.
You’re stuck in the massive backlog. If you qualify for an EB-2 or EB-1 visa (which have requirements that are more difficult to meet), you can file an Immigration Visa Petition in one of those preference categories. This isn’t an option which is available to many people, because there are very few people who are eligible for EB-2 or EB-1 visas.
How an Immigration Lawyer Can Help
Having an experienced immigration lawyer on your side can make this complicated, lengthy and emotionally exhausting process easier.
An immigration lawyer can help you with your visa application and make your skills and knowledge stand out from the rest. He or she also understands the complex laws and regulations regarding immigrating to the US, and can help you avoid any common mistakes that would hinder your application’s success. Their guidance is invaluable when undergoing this process.
VisaPlace: Your US Immigration Law Experts
Are you considering immigrating to the US? Contact VisaPlace today.
Our lawyers and their staff are experienced independent practitioners affiliated with registered law firms. They have been carefully selected by VisaPlace to help you based on their experience and client service approach in Canadian and U.S. immigration law.
Click here to book a 1 on 1 consultation, or call us at 1-888-317-5770.
About Michael Niren
Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more
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