USCIS Ombudsman Report for 2016
Government agencies have an Ombudsman who issues reports to Congress and liaises between consumers and the agency to resolve problems. The USCIS Ombudsman released its report for 2016 at the end of June. Important issues for attorneys, individuals, and employers have been visa RFEs and visa delays, Employment Authorization Document application delays, fee waivers, the EB-5 program, and processing times in general. The Ombudsman’s report is over 100 pages. Here are some highlights:
- The Ombudsman noted the excessive number of Employment Authorization Document applications that are taking over 90 days to adjudicate, despite a regulation that states it must take place within 90 days. One seventh of the Ombudsman’s caseload related to delayed EAD applications. The Ombudsman writes:
“Thousands of EAD applicants and their employers continue to be negatively impacted by the agency’s failure to timely adjudicate Form I-765. The proposed regulatory changes will not improve processing times absent allocation of significant resources to meet processing times goals. The Ombudsman continues to highlight EAD issues as a systemic issue, and will monitor and engage the agency as long as this matter remains unresolved.”
- USCIS has a proposal to eliminate the 90 day adjudication requirement and replace that with an automatic 180 day extension of the employment card’s validity upon a timely filing. That proposal has not been implemented. The Ombudsman repeated that it has made multiple efforts and recommendations to rectify EAD issues over the past 8 years.
- H-1B, L-1A, and L-1B RFE rates have decreased from the previous year. This has been monitored for years because of high RFE rates. There are also discrepancies in RFE rates between the Vermont and California Service Centers. Those discrepancies persist.
- O-1 and P-1 visa petitions are receiving high rates of RFEs (49% and 65%).
- There is mixed data as to whether the Service Centers issue RFEs toward the end of the premium processing 15 day period as a delaying tactic.
- Processing times for Naturalization applications are highly variable by USCIS Field Office. Times range from 4 months to 9 months.
- Processing times for Permanent Residence applications are highly variable by USCIS Field Office. Times range from less than 4 months to over 10 months.