Naturalization Processing Times Increase Drastically
Because of a surge in applications over the summer and resulting massive backlogs, partly in anticipation of fee increases, the average processing time for naturalization applications has increased for applications filed after June 1, 2007, from the current average of seven months or less to approximately 18 months, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said. Family-based adjustment of status applications increased from the current average of six months or less to 12 months.
Specifically, USCIS noted that in July and August of 2007, the agency received nearly 2.5 million applications and petitions, which was double the number typically received in a two-month period. In fiscal year (FY) 2007, USCIS received 1.4 million applications for naturalization, more than the totals from FYs 2006 and 2005 combined. Forty percent of those, or 562,000, were filed in the fourth quarter. Applications for employment- and family-based adjustment of status increased by 76 percent, from 497,000 in FY 2006 to 875,000 in FY 2007.
USCIS said it plans to reduce processing times to six months by the third quarter of fiscal year 2010. USCIS Director Emilio Gonzalez noted that up to several thousand new employees are being hired and trained to deal with the “deluge.” This is in addition to about 700 retired federal government employees who are being hired back without having to sacrifice their pensions, under a plan proposed by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
A sign-on letter expressing deep concern about the delays notes, among other things, that “[m]any of the undersigned organizations opposed fee increases of the magnitude that USCIS proposed and warned that if USCIS were to proceed with the fee increases, it must prepare for a surge in applications from immigrants wishing to avoid the fee increases. In fact, USCIS did move forward with the fee increases, but did not adequately prepare to handle such a surge.”
An announcement about processing times and case status is available on page 5 of USCIS’s December 2007 newsletter. Related testimony from Mr. Gonzalez on January 17, 2008, before the House of Representatives’ immigration subcommittee is available at www.uscis.gov.