As the new year opens, immigrants in the United States are still facing a number of difficult challenges. If you are dealing with any legal matter related to immigration in 2021, do not hesitate to seek the advice and services of an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney.

Immigrants in the United States have faced a variety of demanding challenges throughout the nation’s history. The many challenges that immigrants are facing in 2021 include unprecedented and substantial delays in the processing of immigration applications and requests.

If you’re filing any type of petition, request, or application with the immigration authorities, you are going to need some patience. You should also have an immigration attorney’s advice. Long processing delays are now business-as-usual for any type of immigration request or application.

How Seriously Are the Immigration Courts Backlogged?

The U.S. immigration courts are also severely backlogged. Immigration judges are now hearing more than 1,500 cases every year. The backlog at U.S. immigration courts reached a record 1,281,586 cases at the end of November 2020, as new cases continue to outpace cleared cases.

According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, the immigration courts received 29,758 new cases in October and November 2020, but those courts closed out only 15,590 cases in that same two-month period.

Immigrants in the U.S. are also waiting substantially longer for immigration court cases to be heard and resolved. The current average waiting time for a case in immigration court is about 500 days, but that waiting period is expected to reach 750 days – more than two years – in 2021.

What is Causing the Immigration Delays?

In January, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) acknowledged that long delays in processing immigration requests are the result of COVID-19 restrictions, an increase in the number of immigration requests, and a number of other factors.

In particular, immigrants in the U.S. are experiencing delays with biometric data collection, USCIS receipt notices, adjustment of status and naturalization interviews, and Employment Authorization Documents (EADs).

How Seriously is Biometric Data Collection Backed Up?

For months, USCIS has delayed the scheduling (or rescheduling) of appointments at local Application Support Centers (ASCs) to collect the biometric data that it requires from applicants who have petitioned for U.S. citizenship, adjustment of status, or made other requests.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS typically scheduled these appointments quickly after receiving the immigration request. However, due to the pandemic, USCIS has experienced significant delays in scheduling ASC appointments to collect biometrics.

Since they reopened in June 2020, ASCs have operated only sporadically and with a number of restrictions due to the pandemic. USCIS reports that it is scheduling over 10,000 biometric appointments per day, but 1.3 million applicants still await biometrics appointments.

What About In-Person Interviews?

Due to COVID-19-related USCIS office closures, immigration applications that require an in-person interview have also been delayed, including I-485 applications for adjustment of status and N-400 applications for naturalization.

In fact, some employment-based I-485 interviews have been waived in an effort to reduce the backlog.

Are Receipt Notices Being Delayed?

The delays are also affecting receipt notices, which confirm to immigrants that their petitions have reached USCIS and have not been lost or overlooked. Receipt notices are usually sent within 30 days. They provide the information you need to track your application’s status.

Some receipt notices are now taking sixty days or even longer after filing an application or petition with USCIS. You may experience a significant delay if you filed an application for adjustment of status or for naturalization.

How Are U.S. Employers Affected by the Immigration Delays?

Immigrants in the United States are not the only people who have been affected by USCIS delays and backlogged requests. Their U.S.-based employers are also being affected by significant Employment Authorization Document delays.

These prolonged delays have negative consequences for everyone. U.S.-based businesses can’t meet their goals – and may lose potential profits – when they have to endure extra-long waits for the Employment Authorization Documents that will allow them to hire the workers they need.

EAD applications are now taking six months or longer to process, and they may only be filed up to six months in advance of a prior Employment Authorization Document expiration date. It has sometimes been impossible for some workers to avoid lapses in employment authorization.

What is Required of Employers When an EAD Expires?

Some EAD categories provide for the automatic extension of employment authorization for up to 180 days while a request is pending, but others do not. For the categories that do not provide automatic extensions, a lapse in employment authorization may be inevitable in 2021.

When someone’s EAD expires, the Immigration Reform and Control Act makes it illegal for an employer to hire or to continue employing that person. Thus, when an employee’s EAD expires, the employer has to terminate and then rehire the employee after a new EAD is issued.

Where Can Employers Find Reliable Immigration Advice?

Immigrants play a central role in the U.S. economy, especially in several of the industries that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. About six million immigrants currently work in essential industries that include healthcare, agriculture, and transportation.

Employers who have questions and concerns about Employment Authorization Documents should contact a Las Vegas immigration lawyer who can answer your questions, address your concerns, and ensure that you are operating in compliance with the law.

In fact, immigrants and their U.S. employers should contact an immigration attorney before completing any immigration form or request. Your lawyer can’t make USCIS work faster, but your lawyer can ensure that no mistakes or misunderstandings additionally delay your request.

How Do Immigration Lawyers Help Their Clients?

Have a Nevada immigration attorney help you complete a visa petition, adjustment of status or naturalization request, EAD request, or any other immigration form. Your lawyer will help you prepare for meetings with USCIS officials or defend you, if necessary, in immigration court.

To solve the problem of delays, comprehensive immigration reforms will have to be put in place. While that cannot be done quickly, there is every reason to believe that 2021 is the year Congress will begin to work earnestly on genuine and substantial reforms to the U.S. immigration system.

For now, making sure that the law is on your side, and having the advice and services of the right Las Vegas immigration attorney – from the start – are the best ways to handle any legal matter related to immigration.