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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly



May 26, 2000

Adjudications Update—Second Quarter, FY 2000

(January 1, 2000 – March 31, 2000)

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) continued to make steady progress in the number of immigration benefit applications completed during the second quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2000. This growth in production is a direct result of INS’ diligent efforts to better manage its challenging workloads.

Background

On October 28, 1999, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner and Attorney General Janet Reno announced that the INS completed more than 1.2 million naturalization applications during FY 1999—a 105-percent increase from FY 1998 (610,547). The agency also fulfilled its commitment to cut the national average length of time it takes to process a naturalization application to 12 months—down from 28 months at the beginning of the fiscal year. (This means applications filed in October 1999 would be processed, on average, within 12 months from the date filed.)

To increase production for the naturalization program, the agency implemented a number of initiatives in FY 1999, which included: eliminating processing bottlenecks, improving the performance of new automated systems and their interfaces with other systems, allocating additional funding for application processing needs (i.e., contract support, overtime), and hiring 200 additional adjudicators.

In FY 2000, as the agency continues to make progress in handling the naturalization backlog, it is extending naturalization initiatives to the adjustment-of-status backlog and to the Green Card (Form I-551) renewal program, thereby expanding progress to these vital immigration services.

Naturalization

Production Levels

Preliminary data indicates that the agency completed 289,014 naturalization applications during the second quarter of FY 2000. This is a 29-percent increase over the same time period last year (224,081 completions during second quarter, FY 1999). This completion level shows a 10-percent increase from the first quarter of FY 2000 (261,568 completions). The naturalization caseload stood at 1,170,233 applications as of the end of the second quarter, FY 2000–the lowest it has been since April 1997.

By the end of the second quarter, the national average projected processing time for naturalization applications was 12 months. (This means applications filed at the end of March 2000 would be processed, on average, within 12 months from the date filed.)

The agency remains confident that it will be able to complete 1.3 million naturalization applications this fiscal year. By achieving this goal, and if application receipts stay steady at a projected rate of 500,000 this year, INS will reduce the national average projected processing time to approximately six months by the end of FY 2000.

Adjustment of Status

Adjustment of status refers to the procedure that allows certain aliens already in the United States–who are eligible to receive an immigrant visa and for whom one is immediately available–to apply for immigrant status with INS.

The agency’s adjustment-of-status application workload nearly doubled between FY 1994 and FY 1995 when Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act was implemented. This provision applies to illegal aliens residing in the United States who, although otherwise eligible for an immigrant visa abroad, are barred from adjusting their status in the United States. Section 245(i) allows such individuals to pay a penalty fee and apply with INS for adjustment of status in the United States, instead of acquiring their visa abroad from the Department of State. (Because Section 245(i) expired on January 14, 1998, this provision is currently available only to those aliens who are the beneficiary of either an immigrant visa petition or application for labor certification filed on or before the expiration date.) The pending workload of adjustment-of-status applications increased almost eight-fold from FY 1994 to FY 1999 (from 121,000 to 951,000).

Production Levels

Preliminary data indicates that the agency completed 137,916 adjustment of status applications during the second quarter of FY 2000. This is a 74-percent increase over the same time period last year (79,433 completions during second quarter, FY 1999) and a 60-percent increase over last quarter (86,180 completions during first quarter, FY 2000). The adjustment-of-status caseload stood at 1,003,931 applications at the end of the second quarter, FY 2000.

The agency is confident that if application receipts remain at a projected rate of 483,000 this year, by extending initiatives implemented last fiscal year to boost naturalization production, INS will be able to achieve its goal of completing 500,000 adjustment-of-status applications in FY 2000.

By the end of the second quarter, the national average projected processing time for adjustment-of-status applications decreased to 22 months–down dramatically from the 36-month processing time at the end of the first quarter, FY 2000. While projected processing times will continue to fluctuate from month to month, INS expects to end FY 2000 with a national average projected processing time of 24 months or less.

Green Card Renewal

In the fall of 1989, INS began issuing Green Cards with 10-year expiration dates indicated on the front of the card. INS estimates that up to 660,000 lawful permanent residents will need to renew their Green Cards during FY 2000. INS is implementing new procedures to handle this volume of work and improve customer service. (See New Initiatives below.)

Procedures are currently in place to accommodate Green Card renewal applicants and ensure one-stop service–which means that applicants will only need to visit their local INS office once, if their application is complete and correct. The agency continues to enhance these procedures to improve the renewal process and reduce the wait time for a new card. INS remains committed to achieving a 90-day national average processing time for Green Card renewal applications by the end of this fiscal year.

Production Levels

INS is in the process of developing accurate tracking methods to differentiate Form I-90 Green Card renewal applications from all other Form I-90 applications (i.e., for a lost, mutilated or destroyed card, or for a change in name). Currently, however, Green Card renewals are processed and counted with all the other Form I-90 applications; thus second quarter data relate to all Green Card applications–not just renewals.

According to informal reporting from INS Service Centers, on average, INS is processing Form I-90 applications, including Greed Card renewals, within 5 months–down considerably from a 12-month average processing time at the end of FY 1999. (These processing time estimates cover the period from the date INS receives the completed application until the date the new Green Card is mailed to the applicant.)

New Initiatives

To boost efficiency and customer service, INS plans to move all Green Card renewal processing to INS Application Support Centers this summer. With this initiative and the agency’s continuous efforts to streamline application processing and improve production, INS remains on track to achieve its goal of a 90-day turnaround for Green Card Renewal applications by the end of FY 2000—a significant drop from the current five-month average time.

– INS –

 


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