Reduced Wait Times for Naturalization: Updates on USCIS’s Efforts to Improve Immigration Process

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Efforts to Reduce Citizenship Processing Times in USCIS Offices Across the United States: A Year Later

In June of last year, some cities where the Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) operates reported wait times of up to 24 months to process an N-400 form (application for citizenship by naturalization), as was the case in Christianted, Virginia. Although the deluge of files remains high, with 8,841,152 clogged forms stored in the agency’s database as of December 31, improvements are beginning to be noticed. While the average wait time in 2016 was six months, the USCIS’s September 2020 strategy to reduce wait times for legal immigration processes, including citizenship applications, is producing results.

Acknowledgement of Progress

Limited resources and operational failures contributed to the accumulation of over 9 million files as of September 2020, even as USCIS continuously vowed to improve its response capacity. Armando Olmedo, co-author of ‘Immigration, the new rules’, opines that “waiting times have decreased”. Others like José Guerrero in Miami and Álex Gálvez practicing in Los Angeles make similar observations, even if they fall short of the 2016 standards. On December 31, USCIS recorded 481,644 citizenship petitions for naturalization from the N-400 form, with 6,919 of these requests coming from personnel in the Armed Forces.

Cities with Shorter Processing Times

Cleveland, Ohio has the shortest waiting time for processing an N-400 application, at only 6.5 months according to USCIS’s processing time tool. Spokane in Washington is a close second at 7 months, followed by Boise in Idaho and Hialeah in Florida, with the average processing time taking seven and a half months. Resource constraints and COVID-19 have added to recent delays, according to USCIS, particularly under the previous administration’s zero-tolerance policy on immigration. This policy directly and severely impacted legal immigration processes besides undocumented immigration controls.

Cities with Longer Processing Times

Measuring processing times from the same database, Norfolk in Virginia has the longest waiting time to process an N-400 application at 18.5 months, followed by Baltimore in Maryland at 17 months. New Orleans in Louisiana, along with Christianted, Virginia took 17.5 and 15.5 months, respectively. USCIS’s office in New Orleans reported an average processing time of 18.5 months for the M-400 form in 2020. Other cities with longer waits for N-400 processing times include Minneapolis, Baltimore, Charleston, South Carolina, Salt Lake City, Utah, St. Louis, Missouri, and San Antonio, Texas.

USCIS’s Promise

The USCIS is making efforts to implement measures that would reduce caseloads and expedite processing times while ensuring fair and convenient services to all. USCIS’s director, Ur M. Jaddou, reiterates that delivering timely and fair decisions remains the agency’s top priority. Jaddou also notes that, beyond the bureaucratic necessity, the critical immediate needs of financial stability and humanitarian protection of immigrant applicants remain as guiding motivations. The following are the average wait times for processing the N-400 form (Application for United States Citizenship for Naturalization):

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