Each year the U. S. The government accepts thousands of foreigners as long-term residents of the country. A card, referred to as a “green card” most frequently, serves as a symbol of permanent residence. But the government also denies thousands of green card applications. There are a number of reasons why a green card application might be rejected. The reasons range from lack of an eligibility basis to grounds for admission to improper handling of the application requirements. This article is focused on USCIS denials of.
Family-based green card cases have two major components. First, the U. S. To establish a qualifying relationship with the foreign national relative, a family member must submit Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
Once the I-130 petition has been approved and an immigrant visa is available, the foreign national may then apply for a green card using one of two methods: consular processing or status adjustment. Consular processing is the term for submitting a green card application at a U S. embassy or consulate. The procedure for submitting a green card application while present in the country is known as adjustment of status. Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485) is used by applicants. Not every applicant may adjust status.
Each year U. S. Thousands of green card applications are rejected by Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). According to data, the USCIS received 757,206 petitions for alien relatives (Form I-130) during the fiscal year 2021 and rejected 81,169 of them.
In the same time frame, 44,181 family-based applications to adjust status (Form I-485) were turned down by USCIS. In fact, USCIS denied more than 16 percent of applications. This doesn’t include the 11 percent that USCIS routinely rejects. Applications for green cards based on family are based on a relationship with a U S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
USCIS released data on petition, green card, and naturalization applications and denials for fiscal year 2021
U. S. For the fiscal year 2021, Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released processing and case completion data on all Forms, including family-, fiancé(e)-, and employment-based petitions. The full FY2021, which for USCIS ran from October 2020 through September 2021, as well as new statistics for the fourth quarter of 2021 are included in this data set.
2021 saw the USCIS backlog continue to grow drastically. Fortunately, roughly 69% of the 8. More than 808,000 of the 84 million immigration applications that USCIS received in FY2021 were denied. However, despite USCIS completing nearly 80% of the cases it received in FY2021, the processing backlog at the agency grew to more than 8 million pending cases at the end of FY2021 This reflects a 31% increase over FY2020, and a 40% increase since September 2019 in the overall backlog
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The numbers provided by USCIS for FY2021, along with comparisons to prior years, are broken down below.
Application Numbers Continue to Rise as Backlogs Explode
Despite the pandemic, USCIS had a busy year in 2020, and in 2021, the organization received an additional 18% more petitions and applications.
The approval rate across all Forms showed a marked increase in the fourth quarter of 2021, rising from less than 58% in the third quarter to just over 81% in the fourth. The denial rate across all Forms also rose somewhat in the fourth quarter, gaining around three percentage points in the fourth quarter to land at 10.75%, or 251,700 out of more than 2.3 million.
On the other hand, the overall approval rate fell from 85% last year to only 69% at the end of September 2021, with overall denials also falling from 11.5% in FY2020 to only 9% in FY2021.
The number of Forms received by USCIS in the first quarter of FY2021 was the lowest of the entire year: 1. 73 million. Since then the agency has received 2. 18 million, 2. 58 million, and 2. 34 million forms each quarter, with 8,837,718 forms received and 6,138,799 forms approved by the end of the year. Even so, there are still 8,036,142 cases in the backlog that have not been resolved.
As a result of the USCIS receiving more Form I-765 EAD applications than ever before in FY2021, the backlog of pending Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) applications skyrocketed. 97 million in FY2020 to 2. 61 million at the end of FY2021.
This represents not just a rebound from the pandemic-related drop in submissions in 2020, but an increase of more than 400,000 applications. This surge peaked during the third quarter, running headlong into the backlog of pending EAD applications — 648,985 at the end of FY2020 — to result in a staggering backlog of 1.48 million pending applications.
The fiancé(e) visa, or K-1 visa as it is known, permits the engaged partner of a U S. citizen to enter the country as long as the couple marries within 90 days after entering As a result of their union with a U.S. citizen, the newlywed couple can then apply for permanent residency (a “green card”). S. citizen sponsor submits the K-1 petition on Form I-129F on behalf of their partner.
Despite only a 2. 6% decrease in I-129F petitions received by USCIS in FY2021, the number of petitions USCIS completed in 2021 fell by nearly 16%, from 36,913 to 31,084 This resulted in a 44% increase in the K-1 backlog, from 21,060 petitions at the close of FY2020 to 30,408 pending at the end of FY2021
Adding insult to injury, the closure of U. S. the Covid-19 pandemic, which began in March 2020, has caused a second, distinct backlog as beneficiaries with approved I-129F petitions from USCIS move into the Department of State’s backlog of consular interviews. See our article here for more details on how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the K-1 and consular procedures.
The numbers varied from quarter to quarter, reflecting the program’s uncertain and erratic status throughout the year, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program continued to be the focus of several court cases in 2021. A total of 438,950 Form I-821D applications for DACA were received in FY2021, a 31% increase from FY2020 Of these, around 82% were approved.
Due to the Trump administration’s ban on first-time DACA applicants, these applications only apply to DACA renewals. Although a Texas judge ruled the DACA program was unlawful on July 16 and ordered USCIS to stop processing new, first-time DACA applications, a judge in New York had ordered USCIS to reinstate the program for new applicants in December 2020.
As of September 2021, there are 130,333 pending DACA applications at USCIS %E2%80%94 a 140% increase in the backlog over the course of only one year
Petition to Remove Conditions on Permanent Residence
When their marriage-based green card is approved, spouses who have been together for less than two years must submit a Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence on Form I-751. USCIS began FY2021 with a promising 7. 7% decrease in the Form I-751 backlog from the close of FY2020 The backlog of pending Form I-751s, however, increased significantly through FY2021, from 205,390 at the end of December 2020 to 323,803 at the end of September 2021, an increase of nearly 58 percent, with the exception of January through March of 2021 (Quarter 2).
Hundreds of Thousands of Green Cards Wasted due to Inefficiency
The federal government failed to issue up to 230,000 green cards that were available in FY2021 for immigrants sponsored by U.S. employers or family members. Roughly 150,000 visas for family-based immigrants and as many as 80,000 visas for employment-based immigrants “expired” on September 30, the last day of FY2021.
The government is permitted by Congress to issue up to 675,000 immigrant visas (also known as “green cards”) annually. Of this total, 480,000 visas are set aside for “family preference” immigrants, 140,000 for those coming for work, and 55,000 are allocated to lottery winners for diversity visas. Any family-based green cards left over at the end of the fiscal year are added to the pool of employment-based green cards that will be available the following year.
Because of the large decline in family-based green cards issued by USCIS in FY2020, around 122,000 wasted family green cards were added to the 140,000 available employment-based green card numbers for FY2021, for a total of roughly 262,000. If those green cards also go unused — as up to 80,000 did — they disappear from the system when the new fiscal year begins on October 1, and cannot be recaptured without Congressional action.
At the end of FY2021, there were approximately 7 million green card applicants still awaiting action. 5 million on the family-based side and 1. 6 million on the employment-based side. Sign up for Boundless’ weekly newsletter, BIT, to stay informed on green card recapture, backlog reduction, and other significant immigration legislation.
A total of 757,206 requests to form a family bond with a U S. In FY2021, petitions for citizens or holders of green cards (Form I-130) were received, with quarters three and four seeing a sharp increase (USCIS received 149,173, 148,039, 243,753, and 216,241 petitions, respectively). I-130 petition denials decreased overall in FY2021 to just under 11%.
In FY2020, USCIS received 300,162 applications for status adjustments on Form I-485, but only 288,668 in FY2021. 266,080 applications were approved by the agency, a significant increase from the 229,676 applications approved the year before. Further good news is that 44,181 applications were rejected in FY2021, compared to 53,032 rejections the previous year.
However, this progress was not enough to make a meaningful dent in the family-based I-485 backlog, which stands at 349,350 pending cases at the close of FY2021 — a 52% increase over FY2020. Current estimates place the family-based green card backlog – including the USCIS and Department of State green card backlogs — at 1.6 million.
In contrast to the 26,433 applications received during the same period last year, USCIS received 45,897 applications for employment-based green cards in the final quarter of FY2021. In total, USCIS approved 161,438 employment green cards, a 1,077% increase from 13,709 the previous year
Backlogs for employment-based green cards in particular have unfortunately become a U S. regulations that restrict the number of immigrant visas (green cards) granted to nationals of one country, as well as the overall green card caps imposed by Congress that were previously discussed, have had a significant negative impact on the immigration system. In accordance with the law, USCIS may grant up to 140,000 employment-based green cards each year, plus any unused family green cards from the prior year.
As mentioned above, the number of family-based green cards issued during FY2020 sharply decreased. As a result, 122,000 family-preference visas were left unused and added to the employment-based visa cap for 2021, bringing the total number of available visas up to 262,000.
Due to USCIS’s inability to process these applications, nearly 80,000 of the country’s green cards will “expire” at the end of FY2021. The employment-based green card backlog, which includes the USCIS and Department of State backlogs, is currently estimated to be 7 years long. 5 million. As of December 31, 2021, the Senate is still debating President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which contains provisions that would restore some lost green cards for both family- and employment-based categories.
Naturalization Approvals Bounce Back as USCIS Makes Progress
The process by which holders of green cards can apply to become U S. citizens using Form N-400. Naturalization application numbers dropped substantially from FY2020 to FY2021, declining nearly 19% from 962,668 to 782,615 submitted applications
An encouraging development was that USCIS processed more naturalization applications than it did in FY2021, approving 800,571 of those submitted by non-military civilians and rejecting just under 11%.
Military naturalization approvals fared even better, nearly doubling between FY2020 and FY2021, from 4,553 to 8,817. This bounceback follows a precipitous decline in both applications and approvals beginning in FY2016.
Military naturalization applications since 2016
Because of this, the naturalization backlog retreated somewhat from its high-water mark of 938,154 in FY2020, ending FY2021 with 833,738 pending Form N-400s. This was aided by USCIS prioritizing naturalization applications over other types of benefit requests following the phased reopening of the USCIS Service Centers and Field Offices in summer 2020, as well as falling application numbers coupled with rising approvals and a relatively steady denial rate.
What these numbers mean
According to USCIS, the agency entered FY2020 with a 2.5 million case backlog due to an “unanticipated increase in the overall volume of petition/application filings after the 2016 presidential election,” the implementation of the 2016 fee rule, and “the growing complexity of the work: increasing complexity and length of forms, new statutory and policy decisions, and increased security checks” outpaced USCIS’ capability to adjudicate and complete applications within reasonable processing timeframes. By the beginning of FY2021, the backlog had exploded to 6,380,926, going on to top 8 million by the end of FY2021.
Additionally, processing times have increased significantly, which has a ripple effect on people’s lives, communities, and society at large. People in the EAD backlog risk losing their jobs as their work permits expire; conditional permanent residents may find it difficult to demonstrate their employment authorization or to travel freely until their I-751s are approved; individuals with nonimmigrant visas, such as H-1B employees, are unable to change jobs while waiting for the approval of their employment-based green card applications; and businesses may find it difficult to staff offices and projects due to the uncertainty of rapidly increasing processing times. S. as a whole is enormous.
What is USCIS doing about it?
USCIS has attempted to address processing delays by reusing biometrics for 2.5 million applicants since March 2020, almost clearing the backlog of biometrics appointments, and fully eliminating the “front-log” of cases waiting to be accepted for processing. The agency expanded staffing and overtime at its Lockbox facilities, and claims to be on a firmer financial footing in FY2021 and FY2022.
The Senate confirmed Ur Jaddou, an accomplished immigration lawyer and policy analyst, as the new Director of USCIS in July 2021, making him the agency’s first Senate-confirmed leader in more than two years. In the upcoming year, the Director pledges that the agency will “serve the public with compassion and reflect America’s promise as a nation of welcome and possibilities for all,” and steps have already been taken to lower immigration system barriers, codify DACA, encourage naturalization, and enhance the refugee process.
We will track the statistics, examine the trends, and, most importantly, keep you up to date on all the most recent information that might affect your immigration process. Don’t wait to get in touch if you’re ready to start the fiancé(e) visa or green card application process.
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