Earlier this week, USCIS announced that it intends to finish over one million naturalization cases during Fiscal Year 2008, a number much greater than the amount of naturalization cases completed last year. In addition, USCIS has amended the expected time it will take to complete naturalization cases. That time is now 13-15 months, as compared to the 16-18 point projected time period the agency offered six months ago.
“By the end of the year, I expect USCIS will have finished 36 percent more naturalization cases than last year without compromising national security or the integrity of the naturalization process,” said Emilio Gonzalez, director, USCIS.
Strategies for reaching this goal include expanding the agency’s workforce by nearly 3,000 new employees, positioning employees to work in the USCIS offices most affected by the influx of naturalization requests, quadrupling the available funding for overtime pay and using offices and staff of the Asylum Office to conduct naturalization interviews.
Last year, USCIS received an exorbitant amount of naturalization filings. From June 2007 to August 2007, USCIS received nearly three million filings. In the entire previous year, the agency only received 1.8 million filings.
USCIS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced this week a joint plan to eliminate the backlog of name checks pending with the FBI. The two agencies have developed a set of milestones that prioritize the workload based on the age of the pending name check. All name check cases that have been pending for more than four years have already been eliminated, says the FBI.
“This plan of action is the product of a strong partnership between USCIS and the FBI to eliminate the backlogs and to strengthen national security,” said Emilio Gonzalez, director, USCIS.
The two agencies have set a new goal of completing 98 percent of all name checks within a 30 day period. The remaining 2 percent will be jointly resolved by the agencies within a 90 day proposed period. USCIS and the FBI aim to reach this goal by June 2009 by implementing a range of strategies, including increasing staff, expanding resources and utilizing new business processes.
Yesterday marked the first day that USCIS began accepting new H-1B petitions for Fiscal Year 2009 for H-1B petitions for new employment start dates on or after October 1, 2008. Note that this year, USCIS has extended the filing deadline for these petitions to April 7, 2008. Petitions for new H-1Bs that are not submitted by this date may not be considered for employment in the U.S. until the last quarter of 2009. All H-1B petitions received between April 1 and 7 will be picked via a random lottery; petitions not selected in the lottery will be returned with their filing fees.
Please note that this deadline date does not apply to foreign nationals currently under H-1B status; these individuals are open to extend their status or change employers irrespective of the annual H-1B cap. In addition, individuals from Singapore and Chile are subject to a separate cap, which is currently open and will remain open through this fiscal year. Finally, some employers, such as non-profits connected to universities and some healthcare facilities are additionally exempt from the FY 2009 H-1B cap.