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

Making inquiries about bureaucratic holdups and mixups.

By , J.D.

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, how backed up the particular office is, and more recently, how the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has led to staff reductions, office closures, and long-term delays.

Even in the best of times, 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 normally is the longest you should wait. (Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, however, wait times have been extra long.) After the wait definitely seems too long, you should 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's Contact line at 800-375-5283. Even without a receipt number (which USCIS usually likes to use to track a case), it might 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 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 USCIS's Check Case Processing Times page. If, for example, 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. Enter the form name, which is an I-485, choose the case type and your local field office from the drop-down menus, then click "Get processing time."

You'll see the average processing time in months. USCIS will ignore any inquiries from you if your application is still within its normal processing time range.

Keep in mind that processing times change. Although you might 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.

Checking Your Application Using a Receipt Number

Once you've actually gotten a receipt number from USCIS, you can use its Case Status Online page to get some indication of its status. The answer might seem vague, however, indicating that your case is still pending or in process.

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

You will probably need to personally contact the consulate where your case will be handled for information about how long you might wait. Go to the U.S. Department of State website at www.usembassy.gov, select your consulate, see whether it posts processing times on its website. If not, call its public information number or follow the online instructions for making contact.

Many consulates rely on the National Visa Center (NVC) to schedule appointments for them. The State Department provides general information about average NVC wait times. NVC will also respond to specific questions about your case via its online inquiry form, though this can take a long time.

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