US immigration agency says visa application backlog will be reduced by more than half

US immigration officials have reported that the backlog for visa applications in the US will be cut by more then half by the end of the year, as thousands of people wait to submit applications for new visas.

The State Department said the agency received more than 5.1 million visa applications through March 1, up from 5.0 million last month.

The agency said it will send more notices to visa applicants, including a new warning that applicants who are late to submitting applications for visas can be disqualified from getting another visa. 

A total of 15.2 million visas have been approved for processing this year, a 1.5 percentage point increase over the same period in 2016, the State Department reported.

The backlog is largely due to a change in the visa process in late April, when the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) made changes to the way it considers applications for temporary visas and issued new rules for reviewing applications. 

The USCIS also reduced the time applicants must wait for approval to get a visa by two years from a maximum of six years to five years. 

Some of the changes in the process, including the reduction in time for visa applicants to submit their applications, are due to the recent surge in immigration from Asia, the report said.

But others have been due to changes in how visas are issued, such as the introduction of new requirements for applicants to have a high school diploma and be able to speak English.USCES said that since the change, applications for the new visa categories have surged by over 90 percent, from 2.5 million to 11.3 million. 

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