WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it will finish more than one million naturalization cases during fiscal year 2008 — far exceeding the number of cases completed last year. This update comes following a thorough analysis of the work completed during the last six months.
“By the end of the year, I expect USCIS will have finished 36 percent more naturalization cases than last year without compromising national security or the integrity of the naturalization process,” said USCIS Director Emilio Gonzalez.
The agency recently updated the expected time it will take to complete naturalization cases, projecting processing times averaging 13-15 months. That’s a three month improvement from the 16-18 month projection that USCIS made six months ago.
A critical component of the strategy for addressing this workload is to quickly grow the capacity to handle the influx of additional cases. That includes expanding the USCIS workforce by adding nearly 3,000 new employees, detailing employees to work in the most heavily affected offices, quadrupling the funding for overtime and using Asylum Office facilities and staff to conduct naturalization interviews.
Last summer, USCIS received an unprecedented number of applications and petitions for immigration benefits. During June, July and August alone, USCIS received nearly three million filings, compared to 1.8 million filings during the same period the previous year. This sudden surge included 1.4 million naturalization applications last year — 460,000 in July alone. While historically filing increases have occurred in advance of fee increases, presidential elections, immigration debates and new legislation, none of the past increases are close to the magnitude of the last summer’s surge.
With FBI, will eliminate backlog of name checks
USCIS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have also announced a joint plan to eliminate the backlog of name checks pending with the FBI.
USCIS and the FBI established a series of milestones prioritizing work based on the age of the pending name check. The FBI has already eliminated all name check cases pending more than four years.
“This plan of action is the product of a strong partnership between USCIS and the FBI to eliminate the backlogs and to strengthen national security,” said Gonzalez.
By increasing staff, expanding resources, and applying new business processes, the goal is to complete 98 percent of all name checks within 30 days. USCIS and the FBI intend to resolve the remaining two percent, which represent the most difficult name checks and require additional time to complete, within 90 days or less. The goal is to achieve and sustain these processing times by June 2009.
The joint plan will focus on resolving the oldest pending FBI name checks first. USCIS has also requested that the FBI prioritize resolution of approximately 29,800 pending name checks from naturalization applicants submitted to the FBI before May 2006 where the naturalization applicant was already interviewed.
The target milestones for processing name checks are: by May 2008, process all name checks pending more than three years; by July 2008, process all name checks pending more than two years; by Nov. 2008, process all name checks pending more than one year; by Feb. 2009, process all name checks pending more than 180 days; and by June 2009, have the capacity to process 98 percent of all name checks within 30 days and process the remaining two percent within 90 days.