The Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman’s Annual Report for 2021 states that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) “faces unprecedented challenges this year on virtually every front—from financial pressures to substantial backlogs across applications and petitions of all types.” The Covid-19 pandemic “created unique challenges for USCIS,” the report notes, including temporary office closures and a lack of the ability for “end-to-end electronic processing.” Once USCIS returned to operations at a reduced capacity, the agency had substantial backlogs of in-person appointments that needed rescheduling. The pandemic also exacerbated the agency’s preexisting financial issues and “decimated carryover funding needed to maintain its operations.” The problems began in 2020 and persisted into 2021: “The lingering effects of temporary office closures, insufficient revenue, and budget cuts continue to impact processing time and customer service functions.”

The report also identified other key areas of focus, including persistent problems with the issuance of Notices to Appear; challenges in the medical disability test waiver process; continuing complications in USCIS’s digital strategy; and issues in international student programs, among others. 

The report identifies several key objectives, including expanded electronic filing and processing capabilities, increased outreach with stakeholders, and improved coordination between USCIS and other government agencies.

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