When Should You Start Asking About Delays in Getting Your Green Card Approval?

Making inquiries about bureaucratic holdups and mixups.

When it comes to delays, how long is too long? Processing times for applications sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and overseas U.S. embassies and consulates vary widely, depending on the number of people applying and how backed up the particular office is. Unfortunately, the waits are usually longer than the applicants might like.

How Long Should You Wait for an Initial Receipt Notice?

If you are waiting for an initial receipt, such as one for an I-129F or I-130 visa petition that a fiancé or spouse filed with USCIS, six weeks is the longest you should wait. After that, you should probably make an inquiry.

First, check with your bank to see whether the check submitted with the application was cashed. If it was, try to read the receipt number on the back of the check (if your bank will give you a copy). Then call USCIS Customer Service at 800-375-5283. Even without a receipt number (which USCIS usually likes to use to track a case), they may be able to track your application using your other identifying information, such as your A-number, date of birth, and address.

How Long Should You Wait for a Decision on an Application From USCIS?

Before you submit your applications to USCIS, you will probably want to know how long you can expect to wait for a decision. You can usually get this information from the USCIS website.

Go to the “USCIS Processing Time Information” page of the USCIS website. What you choose on the page depends on which application you want information about. If you want to know how long you will wait for an interview on your adjustment of status application, check the processing times at the office where you will be interviewed. Choose your local field office from the drop-down menu at the bottom of that page, and click “Field Office Processing Dates.” In the table that appears, check the I-485 processing time frame.

If, however, you want information about an I-130 that was filed alone, then instead of clicking “Field Office Processing Dates,” click “Service Center Processing Dates” for the Service Center with jurisdiction over your petition. Be sure to look at the column for I-130s filed by people in your category. There are several categories of I-130s and some are processed more quickly than others.

These charts tell you the receipt dates of the applications that USCIS is currently working on. If your application was filed later than the applications that are currently being worked on, USCIS considers your petition to be within its normal processing time, and will ignore any inquiries from you.

Keep in mind that processing times change. Although you may have checked the processing time several months earlier when you first submitted an application, check it again before contacting USCIS. Once the USCIS office has gone beyond its normal processing time, it is time to contact the agency.

How Long Should You Wait to Be Scheduled for an Interview at a U.S. Consulate?

Some consulates post information about average wait times on their website. Go to the U.S. Department of State website at www.usembassy.gov, and select your consulate. If you do not find the processing times listed, you may need to call their public information number.

Many consulates now rely on the National Visa Center (NVC) to schedule appointments for them. If your case is at the NVC, you can email it at [email protected], or call 603-334-0700. The NVC does not provide general information about average wait times, but will respond to specific questions about your case. Be ready to provide your NVC case number, which is on all correspondence from the NVC.

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