U.S. immigration agency speeding up procedures

Via Reuters
09/15/2006

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
said on Friday it will meet its goal of reducing the average wait time
for immigration services to six months by the end of September.

The
agency formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service
also said the total number of pending cases that exceeded the six-month
wait period fell from 3.8 million in January 2004 to 1.1 million in
July this year.

“It really is a Herculean achievement that we’ve
been able to achieve this,” Emilio Gonzalez, the agency’s director told
reporters.

Nearly 1 million applications will still be pending at
the start of October, said Michael Ayetes, director of USCIS field
operations.

But the agency considers these outside its control because they
are awaiting feedback from other agencies such as the FBI, or
information or documents from applicants, Ayetes said.

In July
2001, President George W. Bush asked the agency to establish a
six-month standard from start to finish for processing immigration
applications.

Three main types of services still face backlogs,
Ayetes said. They include relative petitions, in which a U.S. citizen
asks for the naturalization of a relative, requests for permanent
residence and asylum applications.

The offices with the biggest numbers of backlogs are New York, Miami and Atlanta, he added.

Crystal
Williams of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said USCIS
holds some responsibility for the nearly 1 million applications it says
are outside the agency’s control.

“They have become faster and
they’ve made progress … but in many cases they are generating these
numbers by sending unneeded requests for extra documentation (to
applicants),” she said.

Williams added the agency should also establish procedures to get information from other agencies faster.

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