USCIS Announces FY 2021 Accomplishments—Addressing Challenges and Response to Executive Orders (1 of 5)
WASHINGTON — On December 16, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is releasing preliminary fiscal year (FY) 2021 agency statistics and accomplishments. These preliminary statistics highlight important immigration trends and illustrate the work accomplished by USCIS in FY 2021. The agency will publish final, verified FY 2021 statistics in January 2022.
“I’m immensely proud of the USCIS workforce and for their achievements in a year of many challenges and rebuilding. From responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing processing delays to enacting numerous operational and policy changes in response to executive orders from the Biden-Harris Administration, FY 2021 marks a year of growth and renewed vision for our agency,” said USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou. “In the upcoming year, we will continue to serve the public with compassion and reflect America’s promise as a nation of welcome and possibilities for all. As we administer our nation’s immigration system as an engine of American strength, we will adjudicate requests with fairness, efficiency, and integrity.”
- Fiscal Health: USCIS fiscal health has improved significantly during FY 2021 as a result of measures the agency implemented to reduce spending, as well as an increase in Immigration Examinations Fee Account revenue receipts, which have exceeded projections.
- Temporary Flexibilities in Response to COVID-19: The health and safety of our workforce and those we serve remained a top priority. USCIS continued temporary flexibilities related to COVID-19, including allowing more time for responses to certain USCIS requests and notices.
- Employment-Based Adjustments: USCIS faced the unprecedented challenge of processing over 237,000 employment-based Green Card applications—not only the agency’s usual 115,000, but an additional 122,000 immigrant visa numbers that the Department of State was unable to process in FY 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of FY 2021, USCIS approved over 172,000 employment-based adjustment of status applications, an increase of 50% above the typical baseline.
- Processing Delays: Across the agency, the volume of pending cases increased as well as the associated processing times. USCIS has made significant strides in addressing processing delays caused by COVID-19 and other factors while responding to new executive orders. USCIS made significant strides in addressing processing delays in the following ways: reusing biometrics for 2.5 million applicants since March 2020; reducing the number of pending biometrics appointments from 1.4 million in January 2021 to 155,000 as of the end of September; and fully eliminating the “front-log” of cases awaiting intake processing (which was more than 1 million receipts in January 2021 and was eliminated in July) by expanding staffing and overtime at our Lockbox facilities.
Response to Executive Orders
- Breaking Down Barriers: USCIS continues to identify efficiencies and remove barriers to benefits and services pursuant to executive orders (EO) 14012 and 13985 and received over 7,400 comments to its Request for Public Input, “Identifying Barriers Across U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Benefits and Services,” which closed on May 19, 2021. USCIS has already announced a number of updates responsive to comments received, including reverting to prior criteria for interviewing petitioners requesting derivative refugee and asylee status for family members, clarifying that it will consider E and L dependent spouses to be employment authorized incident to status and that H-4, E, and L dependent spouses may qualify for the automatic extension of their employment authorization, and providing deferred action and work authorization for petitioners living in the U.S. with pending, bona fide U nonimmigrant status petitions and who merit a favorable exercise of discretion. USCIS continues to review and consider comments received in response to the Request for Public Input, alongside other feedback received, such as in stakeholder engagements.
- Promoting Naturalization: During FY 2021, USCIS welcomed 855,000 new U.S. citizens, including derivative citizens. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the help of video-facilitated interviews and pandemic-safe interview procedures, USCIS continued to process naturalization cases at pre-pandemic levels during FY 2021 and completed approximately 895,000 naturalization applications, conducted more than 52,000 video-facilitated interviews, and hosted more than 40,000 naturalization ceremonies. USCIS continues to promote and improve access to naturalization pursuant to EO 14012 and the Interagency Strategy for Promoting Naturalization [PDF, 3.77 MB], which was released publicly on July 2, 2021. USCIS has taken a number of steps to reduce barriers to naturalization and promote citizenship, including phasing out the 2020 version of the Naturalization Civics Test and reverting back to the 2008 Test on March 1; decreasing the pending naturalization case queue by approximately 14% from January to September 2021; conducting video interviews of overseas military members and qualifying family members, as well as video naturalization ceremonies, with the assistance of the Department of Defense; reusing approximately 838,000 naturalization applicants’ biometrics since March 1; relaunching the Outstanding Americans by Choice initiative; and releasing $10 million to 40 citizenship grantees for FY 2022.
- Public Charge: DHS published the Public Charge Vacatur Final Rule in the Federal Register on March 15, 2021, which removed the regulatory provisions promulgated by the 2019 Public Charge Final Rule that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated on March 9. USCIS released a letter to interagency partners on April 12, seeking their support in communicating to the public that the 2019 Public Charge Rule is no longer in effect. On Aug. 23, USCIS published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to seek broad public feedback on key considerations associated with the public charge ground of inadmissibility that will help with the development of a future regulatory proposal. As announced in the ANPRM, USCIS conducted a listening session for the general public on public charge on Sept. 14. Resources on public charge, including questions and answers, are available on our website. USCIS hopes to issue its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on public charge in the near future.
- U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) Improvements: USCIS continues to work with the Department of State (DOS) to take steps to improve the efficacy, integrity, security and transparency of the USRAP pursuant to EO 14013.
- Family Reunification Task Force: USCIS continues to serve on the Family Reunification Task Force and established a parole process and approved approximately 100 individuals for parole during FY 2021 to help reunify families separated by the prior administration’s Zero-Tolerance and related policies.
- Expansion of Lawful Pathways from Central America: USCIS and DOS reinstituted and expanded the Central American Minors Refugee and Parole Program (CAM), including the resumption of interviews. In Phase One, USCIS and DOS began processing eligible applications that were closed when the CAM program was terminated in January 2018. In Phase Two, eligibility criteria were expanded for certain U.S. based individuals—to include legal guardians in qualifying categories (such as lawful permanent residence, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), parolees, deferred action, Deferred Enforced Departure, or withholding of removal), and parents or legal guardians with a pending asylum application or petition for U nonimmigrant status—to apply for their children to access the CAM program.