The Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman’s Annual Report for 2021, published on June 30, 2021, details the “unprecedented challenges” faced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), citing financial pressures and substantial backlogs “across applications and petitions of all types.” Effective remote adjudication during the COVID-19 was hindered by temporary office closures and “a lack of product lines available for end-to-end electronic processing.”
When USCIS operations resumed at a reduced capacity, the agency had to handle significant backlogs of in-person appointments that required rescheduling. COVID-19 only worsened USCIS’ preexisting financial issues and “decimated carryover funding needed to maintain its operations.” Budget cuts, a court-enjoined fee rule, and insufficient revenue cause ongoing impact to processing times and customer service functions.
The report highlights key focus areas, including the persisting problems with issuing Notices to Appear, the processing of removal of conditions for conditional permanent residents based on marriage, the challenges in the medical disability test waiver process, the ongoing complications in USCIS’s digital strategy, and the effective administration of international student programs.
The report also outlines key objectives that will assist the agency in confronting the above-mentioned unprecedented challenges.
These objectives include “expanded electronic filing and processing capabilities, increased outreach with stakeholders, and improved coordination between USCIS and other government agencies.”