Backlogs and Delays in Consular Processing

The Biden administration has done little to improve the processing of visa applications at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. As of October 14, 60% of consulates and embassies were still fully or partially closed for “anything other than emergency nonimmigrant visa appointments” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many visa applicants are still being forced to wait far longer for a visa than ever before.

The State Department reported that, as of October 31, there were 490,089 applicants for immigrant visas whose cases were “documentarily complete.” However, only 28,964 of these had been scheduled for interviews at a consulate or embassy in November, leaving 461,125 who were still waiting for an interview to even be scheduled.

In a welcome development, the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs announced on November 19 that it would “focus on reducing wait times” for services at U.S. embassies and consulates.

Backlogs and Delays in the Processing of Immigration Benefit Applications

The Biden administration has lifted many of the “invisible wall” policies put in place by the Trump administration, such as the “no blank spaces” policy and a 2018 policy targeting applicants for humanitarian benefits.

However, the administration has done little to improve the processing of immigration benefit applications at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). At the end of the third quarter of Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, USCIS had a backlog of 7.8 million applications and petitions. Processing times varied enormously by application type, ranging from 1.2 months for an I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) and 2.8 months for an I-175 (Application for Employment Authorization) to 60.6 months for an I-918 (Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status) and 21.7 months for an I-730 (Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition).

Processing delays have an enormous effect on immigrants, especially those applying for or renewing a work permit. Many people have lost their jobs or are at risk of losing their job, sparking lawsuits against the agency over the delays.

The administration’s “discretionary funding” request to Congress for FY 2022 has asked that $345 million be allocated to USCIS to reduce the backlog of applications for naturalization and asylum.


The Immigration Policy Successes and Failures of the Biden Administration