USCIS case backlog explained in USCIS testimony, given jointly before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, on July 16, 2019.


On July 16, 2019, the USCIS testified regarding the current backlog of 2.4 million cases awaiting adjudication through Fiscal Year 2018. You can read the full written joint testimony of Don Neufeld, associated Director, Service Center Operations Directorate, Michael Valverde, Deputy Associate Director, Field Operations Directorate, and Michael Hoefer, Chief, Office of Performance and Quality, Management Directorate, here.

The USCIS case backlog refers to the net total of cases beyond expected processing times awaiting USCIS adjudication.

What is causing the USCIS case backlog?

The USCIS outlined a number of external and internal causes it has identified that are contributing to and have contributed to the growing case backlog. Some of these include the 2016 presidential election, resources, security, changes in laws, regulations programs, and policies, security, and internal USCIS workplace changes.

The 2016 Election

The USCIS reasoned from data that if they implemented a new fee structure, or if it was a presidential election year, receipts would increase initially, but dramatically decrease the following year. Instead, receipts initially increased after they implemented a new fee structure, and after the 2016 presidential election, but failed to decrease as they were anticipating.


Generally, the USCIS notes a lack of resources, including employees and facilities, to handle the increased caseload.


The USCIS further notes that similar to how things were shortly after 9/11, changes in security approaches and policies have led an increase in vetting. Vetting increases in general slow the adjudication process.

Laws, Regulations, Programs, and Policies

Programs like DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), the rescission and enjoinment of the rescission of DACA, and other instabilities in laws, regulations, programs, and policies have contributed to the case backlog.

Internal USCIS Workplace Changes

Staffing and workplace strategies, such as the USCIS’s FY 2014 Quality Workplace Initiative, were implemented to change its employee evaluation methods and added to the growing case backlog.

What is the USCIS doing to reduce the backlog?

The Service outlines several strategies it plans to implement in its efforts to reduce the backlog. Namely, its “Backlog Reduction Plan.”

Backlog Reduction Plan

The USCIS has outlined a backlog reduction plan that details the administrative projects and changes they will implement. Some of these include efficiency pilot projects and work redistribution.

Other Efforts

The USCIS believes the burden of their workload will decrease at least some after the closure of all its international field offices. They also plan to implement modern project management techniques, such as Agile processes.

If you or someone you know are affected by the USCIS case backlog, Christians Law, PLLC is here to help. Tyler Christians is an experienced immigration lawyer and is able to think creatively when approaching complex cases. Please give us a call or text by clicking or tapping here, visit our contact page, or simply fill out the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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Christians Law, PLLC is an immigration and criminal defense law firm with offices in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Falls Church, Virginia.

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