The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processes millions of applications from noncitizens. These applicants desire to live and work for some time in the US or become citizens. The many applications lead to pending caseloads—that slow processing in various service centers, including the Texas Service Center.
The Texas Service Center is Slow due to the Covid-19 pandemic stalling a ton of applications. Not only that, but the competing priorities inside the department as well as staffing issues complement the slow proceeding.
The Texas Service Center has considerable backlogs in various types of applications. Below are the types of applications and the elements that lead to slow services.
What Types of Applications Suffer From The Slow Texas Service Center?
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) did a recent study analysis on some USCIS forms. The study was to investigate seven USCIS forms contributing to backlogs.
The report showed these applications had a considerably delayed process at the centers. So, here are some applications with the most prolonged delays at the Texas Service Center:
The seven forms that comprise the most significant percentage of USCIS’ total pending caseload include:
- Application to replace the permanent resident card (Form I-90)
- Application for naturalization (Form N-400)
- Application to adjust status (green card) or register permanent residence (Form I-485)
- Application for employment authorization (Form I-765)
- Application for withholding of removal or asylum (Form I-589)
- Petition for alien relative (Form I-129)
- Petition for a nonimmigrant worker (Form I-129)
Employment Authorization Documents (EADs)
The employment Authorization Documents (EADs) process suffers the most processing delays. EADs refer to the work permits filed via Form I-765. It’s through the EAD processing that one gets Employment Authorization. The USCIS generally issues three kinds of EADs;
|1||Initial EAD||It proves you have permission to work in the United States|
|2||Renewal EAD||It renews your initial EAD. It is advisable to avoid filing for a renewal more than 180 days before your initial EAD expires|
|3||Replacement EAD||It replaces your stolen, mutilated, or lost EAD. You can also get a replacement if your original EAD had incorrect details, such as a misspelled name.|
Some work authorization applicants with four types of pending applications have the most significant backlog impact. These include pending change of status applications and awaiting asylum applications.
Applicants seeking authorization based on other categories also experience considerable delays. They have Temporary Protection Status and special programs. Another group with heavy backlogs is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
USCIS recently issued a new policy to help streamline EAD issuance and cut the large backlogs. The policy stated the service center would give separate EAD combo cards for Form I-765 and Form I-131. Separating the issuance of Application for Employment Authorization and Application for Travel Document seeks to prevent employment disruptions.
The Factors Contributing To The Texas Service Center Backlog
The GAO report identified six primary factors that add to the pending caseloads. The factors result in longer processing times. Understanding these elements enables you to learn how they contribute to the slowed Texas Service Center processing. They are:
1. Covid19 pandemic
2. Expanded interview requirements
3. Length of USCIS forms
4. Competing priorities
5. Evidence requests
1. Covid19 Pandemic
Covid-19 significantly influenced operations in different aspects of livelihood and government. It affected the processing speed at the Texas Service Center and other institutions.
The USCIS suspended in-person services in March 2020. Some services restarted again in June 2020 at a much less capacity. Thus, there were delays in processing cases needing a biometrics appointment or interview.
2. Expanded Interview Requirements
In August 2017, the USCIS amended its adjudication policy. The amendment requires interviewing applicants for forms that did not need an interview. This policy’s example is the employment-based Application to Register Permanent Residents (Form I-485).
The processing now includes an interview appointment, unlike in the past.
The additional interview requirements increased the center’s workloads, creating more extended processing periods. This process slows services by increasing the median time from the date of application to the interview date. So, it prolonged the duration from submission to completing an application and issuing documents.
3. Length Of USCIS Forms
The USCIS application forms come in lengthy papers. The papers feature seven to twenty pages, depending on the application type. This length means officials take time to go through and analyze the information on each document. Also, it leads to more interviews because adjudicators need to collect and verify extra details.
4. Competing Priorities
Competing priorities are another factor slowing down the processing at the service center. The increase in credible fear leads to the USCIS shifting its focus to conducting reasonable fear screenings.
The priority to rational and plausible screenings of detained individuals delays the center’s efforts to process applications. Also, the service center diverts staff resources from other sections to hurry the screenings. This diversion of resources slows down other processes.
5. Evidence Requests
The Request for Evidence regulation contributes to slow processing at the Texas Service Center. USCIS adjudicators issue the request when a petitioner or applicant does not submit all the necessary documents. They also request evidence if they do not get all the required details during an interview.
This step enables the service center to get all information necessary to prove eligibility for benefits. Once an applicant or petitioner receives a Request for Evidence, USCIS provides up to 87 calendar days for a response.
USCIS officials picked staffing as one of the aspects adding to prolonged processing times. The USCIS placed an agency-wide hiring freeze from May 2020 to April 2021.
As a result, directorates could not fill vacant positions. Hence, there was an increase in the workload and pending caseloads on current employees. This imbalance meant the service center processed applications much slower.
Besides, the USCIS had challenges filling its authorization position before the hiring freeze. The agency found it hard to keep up with the pace of staff moving ranks within or separating from the agency.
Texas Service Center FAQ
Here are some of the most common questions regarding the Texas Service Center
What Can The Texas Service Center Do To Overcome The Slow Processing?
The center can consider the electronic filing of most immigration applications on its webpage. It can also look at scheduling interview appointments faster by reusing bio-metrics data from previous applications filed with USCIS.
Which Recommendations Can The Texas Service Center Take To Increase Processing Speeds?
GAO offered the USCIS some recommendations to help the Texas Service Center shorten processing time. It recommended developing and implementing performance measures to monitor efficiency in processing certain forms. Another proposal is to identify the resources required to address the service center’s pending caseload.