The White House is looking into the recommendations of a presidential commission to reduce the adjudication and processing of Green Card applications to just six months and remove all the backlogs by April 2023, a proposal if implemented would benefit hundreds and thousands of immigrant families, in particular, those from countries like India and China.
The recommendations were made in May this year by the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.
On Friday, the commission released its inaugural report detailing recommendations that were approved on May 12 and transmitted to the President on August 24. The White House Domestic Policy Council is currently reviewing the recommendation before it can be sent to President Joe Biden for his decision.
A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently.
Silicon Valley-based Indian American entrepreneur Ajay Jain Bhutoria, who has been a Biden supporter from day one of his campaign, based on the feedback received from the community had moved the proposal on the issue during the first meeting of the commission in May this year. His proposal was unanimously accepted by the commission.
The recommendations, if accepted and implemented by the White House, would come as a game changer for hundreds and thousands of immigrant families, in particular, those from countries like India and China.
According to the commission’s report, because of COVID-19-related closures and staffing limitations as well as the continued effect of the 2017 travel bans, processing green cards up to the annual cap has been difficult.
Out of the annual 226,000 green cards available, only 65,452 family-based preference green cards were issued in FY 2021, it said.
The commission said that the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) facility should hire additional officers to increase its capacity to process Green Card application interviews by 100 per cent in three months from August 2022, and by increasing Green Card applications and visa interviews and adjudicate decisions by 150 per cent (from the current the capacity of 32,439 in April 2022) by April 2023, and reduce the current backlog by the end of 2023.
“Thereafter, Green Card visa interviews and visa processing timelines should be limited to a targeted goal of six months,” it said.
According to the commission, to reduce the agency’s pending family-based Green Card backlog, US Citizenship and Immigration Services should review their processes, systems, and policies and establish new internal cycle time goals by streamlining processes, removing redundant steps, if any, and automating any manual approvals.
It should improve its internal dashboards and reporting system, and enhance policies to reduce the cycle time for processing all forms related to family-based Green Card applications, it said.
Family-based immigration backlogs have increased significantly over the past three decades, which has resulted in years-long delays in family reunification.
It is estimated that the family-based visa backlog exceeds 7.5 million applications, up from 3.3 million in 1992 and 6.2 million in 2009, the commission said.
Of this number, approximately 40 per cent are Asian American or Pacific Islander family members of US citizens or permanent residents, the commission said.
The Commission in its report recommended that the targeted goal for applications to be processed is six months unless there is a query or question by the USCIS.
“If there is a query or more information is needed, USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) and the Department of State (DOS) shall continue to process the applications outside the six-month goal and adjudicate decisions in a timely fashion,” it said.
“If an application is not completed in six months, then it will not be terminated and will continue to be processed in a timely fashion ongoing,” it added.
The committee recommended automatically extending work permit renewal extensions to 365 days.
Most work permit holders who apply for renewals are eligible for an automatic 180-day extension if their authorisation to work lapses, it said.
However, many immigrants are waiting for their work permit renewals longer than that, often beyond 10 months.
The subcommittee recommends extending the period of automatic work permit extensions for those who apply for a renewal to 365 days instead of the current 180 days. This is in alignment with USCIS’ current planned strategy to address the backlog, it added.
The presidential commission has recommended hiring more officers and increasing staff by an additional 200 to 250 officers by 2023 to improve internal processing times to meet new timelines for adjudicating applications.
It has recommended adjudicating requests for temporary work programmes, such as the H-1B and H-2A visas for agricultural workers, within two months.
The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
The committee also recommended that review and adjudication requests for work permits, travel documents, and temporary status extensions or changes should be reviewed and adjudicated within three months.
Federal agencies should provide key documents, digital content, and forms on their websites translated into multiple AA and NHPI (Asian Americans (AA), Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders) languages, the commission recommended.