In a significant leap forward, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released its end-of-fiscal-year data for 2023, showcasing remarkable achievements in key areas. The report highlights advancements in customer experience, employment-based immigration, naturalization, and humanitarian efforts.
USCIS made history by handling an unprecedented 10.9 million filings in fiscal year 2023, breaking records and marking a 15% reduction in overall backlogs. USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou expressed pride in the workforce, emphasizing a commitment to fairness and integrity. The agency’s achievement included administering the Oath of Allegiance to over 878,500 new U.S. citizens, effectively eliminating the backlog of naturalization applications.
The USCIS prioritized customer experience by implementing innovative solutions. A new self-service tool for online rescheduling of biometrics appointments resulted in over 33,000 successfully rescheduled appointments. Additionally, enterprise change of address capabilities enabled more than 430,000 address changes, reducing phone inquiries by an estimated 31%. Online field office appointment requests and a text-ahead feature for the USCIS hotline improved accessibility and responsiveness.
In FY 2023, USCIS, in collaboration with the Department of State, issued over 192,000 employment-based immigrant visas, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. The agency supported U.S. employers by extending the maximum validity period of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) to five years and clarified eligibility for various immigration services. USCIS proposed a new rule to enhance worker protections and the integrity of the H-2 temporary worker program.
USCIS addressed the urgent humanitarian needs of individuals worldwide, conducting over 100,000 refugee interviews, resulting in the admission and resettlement of more than 60,000 refugees. With a commitment to protecting vulnerable populations, the agency completed a record-breaking 146,000 credible fear screenings. USCIS played a vital role in establishing lawful pathways for individuals from Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and Ukrainians, while supporting the Safe Mobility Office initiative to discourage dangerous migrations.
USCIS has outlined its priorities for FY 2024, aiming to continue reducing processing delays, maintaining median processing times, and modernizing the H-1B program. The agency plans to enhance customer accessibility through online filing tools, expand its international footprint, and support Afghan allies through Operation Enduring Welcome. As a fee-funded agency, USCIS emphasized the need for updated fee schedules and additional resources to sustain its accomplishments.
In March 2022, USCIS established new internal cycle time goals for 25 forms to guide the agency’s backlog reduction efforts. A cycle time measures how many months’ worth of pending cases for a particular form are awaiting a decision and is used to gauge progress on reducing backlogs. As cycle times improve, processing times will follow, and applicants and petitioners will receive decisions on their cases more quickly.
USCIS increased capacity, improved technology, and expanded staffing to achieve these new cycle time goals by the end of FY 2023. The following table shows the goals for each form, alongside actual cycle times. By the end of FY 2023, USCIS achieved the cycle time goal for nine of these forms, including naturalization, and reduced cycle times for all but one of the 25 forms identified in March 2022. They achieved these across-the-board cycle time reductions at the same time we received a record number of new cases and responded to growing humanitarian needs.
In FY 2022, USCIS completed over 1 million applications for naturalization, welcoming the highest number of naturalized citizens in almost 15 years and reducing the net backlog by 62%.
Continuing these positive trends in FY 2023, USCIS completed 975,800 naturalization applications, administered the Oath of Allegiance to over 878,500 individuals, including 12,000 U.S. military service members, and nearly eliminated the net backlog. Factoring in individuals who derive citizenship from their parents, USCIS completed 1,045,600 naturalization cases. The median processing time for naturalization applicants decreased from 10.5 months to 6.1 months by the end of the fiscal year, achieving the agency’s longstanding processing time goal for most individuals seeking U.S. citizenship.