As our regular readers will know, we had recently reported that the Naturalization Backlog will not clear before 2010. As detailed in the article, by the end of FY2007, there was more then 140,000 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (FORM I-140) petitions awaiting their fate. Due to the lack of adequate resources to deal with such a huge backlog of cases, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has kept its premium processing services in indefinite suspension for along time now. In addition, delays in the FBI name check process have also been termed as being the cause of longer adjudication time. In the meantime, such long delay in approval of I-140 means huge problems for immigrants in the system, as it effects several other processes.
- Beyond 6th Year H1-B Extension
Immigrants who are nearing the end of their 6-year H1B period and are not eligible for a 7th year extension are hard pressed to find a way to stay in the country. Unless their I-140 petitions are approved, they cannot extend their stay in the country until their green card process is complete.
· AC 21 Portability
With the backlog expected to take another two or three years to clear at least, change of employment using the AC 21 180-day portability rule will be impossible for immigrants without an approved I-140 petitions. This is a major concern as maintaining a steady employment it is not always in the hand of the beneficiary. Especially with US fearing an economic recession, many people may have to change employment.
Due to retrogression in many visa categories, many H1B holders are yet to file their I-140 Petition. While some of the categories seem to have eased up recently, the recent Visa Bulletin indicated that the forward movement might not last very long.
· Termination of Concurrent Filing
USCIS is deliberating the possibility of terminating concurrent filing of I-140 and I-485 (Adjustment of Status) Petitions. In that case, I-485 petitioners will also be forced to join this backlog wait. The consequence of such a move in the current situation is yet unclear.The I-140 backlog is quite counter-productive towards all the initiatives taken by US to streamline the legal immigration process. Since the allocation of additional funds to this program in the pre-election atmosphere seems very unlikely, we can at best hope that USCIS will take steps to fix the gaps in the system until the backlog is cleared.