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AILA Doc. No. 21030535 | Dated March 5, 2021
AILA and 16 coalition partners sent a letter urging USCIS to implement the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act. Diane Rish, associate director of government relations, highlights some recommendations to ensure USCIS remains solvent while efficiently adjudicating all applications and petitions.
Earlier this week, AILA and coalition partners sent a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services urging the agency to swiftly implement the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act.
The Stopgap Act was signed into law in October and provides measures to address USCIS’s recent fiscal challenges.
These fiscal challenges were made public last May when the agency requested a 1.2-billion-dollar bailout based on a massive projected budget shortfall, threatening the agency’s operations and the financial wellbeing of thousands of its employees.
In particular, this legislation provides USCIS with immediate access to existing premium processing funds to cover operating expenses, funds that were previously reserved for infrastructure improvements.
It allows the agency to increase revenue by increasing the premium processing fee for most form types, a step the agency took in October, and it allows the agency to expand premium processing to additional form types.
In turn, the legislation requires that USCIS provide Congress with a semi-annual briefing, and to submit a 5-year plan by the end of March, outlining the agency’s plans to establish electronic filing procedures for all applications and petitions; to accept the electronic payment of fees at all filing locations; to issue all correspondence and notices electronically; and o Improve processing times for all immigration benefit applications and petitions.
USCIS generates substantial revenue from its premium processing service. Estimates indicate that USCIS could raise millions of dollars more in annual revenue by expanding premium processing to additional form types.
As such, the expansion of premium processing, if properly implemented, would not only allow stakeholders to have certain cases processed more quickly, but it will also help generate more revenue to support its operations, while also allowing the agency to make sure that is more efficient and operating more effectively in its adjudication of applications and petitions.
AILA and coalition partners offer several recommendations on how USCIS can implement the legislation to ensure the agency remains solvent while efficiently and effectively adjudicating all applications and petitions.
In particular, we urge USCIS to prioritize the allocation of the premium processing fees it receives to address its crisis level processing delays, in particular for applications and petitions that are not currently eligible for premium processing.
We also urge the agency to ensure that processing times in general for regularly process applications and partitions are not negatively impacted by the expansion of premium processing.
And to expand premium processing to additional form types in a thoughtful and strategic manner in particular, by starting with the forms specifically authorized by the legislation,
We also offer recommendations for steps USCIS can take to make the agency more efficient and effective and to minimize the financial challenges the agency might experience going forward. Such as encouraging the agency to adopt cost-efficient measures for adjudicating applications such as eliminating the mandatory in-person interview requirement for routine cases, reinstating the deference policy, and reusing biometrics, and waiving biometrics for certain form types.
We encourage our members and the public to familiarize themselves with this issue by reading the letter and a summary of the legislation, both of which can be found on the AILA website.
We also encourage you to lift up the letter on social media and use the hashtag Hold USCIS Accountable. AILA members and their guests can sign up to attend AILA’s National Day of Action, taking place on April 22nd this year.
Join us and urge members of congress to take action and to hold USCIS accountable, and to provide oversight over the implementation of this legislation.
Cite as AILA Doc. No. 21030535.
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