It's almost inevitable that, after submitting an immigration-related application to the U.S. government, you'll wonder whether U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the overseas U.S. consulate is taking longer than it should to act on it. Here, we will discuss:
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. After that, you should make an inquiry.
First, if you wrote a check for your application, contact your bank to see whether it has been 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.
Go to USCIS's Check Case Processing Times page to find out how long you'll likely wait for approval or denial of your application. 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. If, for instance, you checked the average 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.
After you've actually gotten a receipt number from USCIS, you can use its Case Status Online page to get some indication of its current status. The answer might seem vague, however, merely indicating that your case is still pending or in process.
If any office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has your application, and it has been there beyond the normal processing time, the main way to make an inquiry is through the USCIS Contact Center. It's open Monday through Friday only, and users report greater success when placing calls early in the week and early in the day.
Unfortunately, getting to talk to a live person at the Contact Center can be a struggle. The system is set up to operate via an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, and provide recorded information for most anything you inquire about. (Saying words like "live agent" or "operator" won't help, either.) Often the best a caller can do is place a request for a call back.
Exactly when you'll be called back depends on how urgent your inquiry seemed to be. Seven business days has become the norm for regular inquiries. More urgent ones should receive a call-back within 48 hours. In preparation for the call, double check that sure your phone isn't set to block unknown callers..
It's possible that the USCIS officer will be able to resolve your case problem then and there. More likely, however, the officer will take information from you and begin an inquiry process, then let you know when to expect a response. Be sure to make a note of the date you call and the case referral number the representative gives you.
If you do not have a response within 30 days of your call, send an email to the Service Center that has your application or petition. You'll find the email address on the USCIS website. Reference your case referral number and the date you called. Also provide your name and the type of petition or application you filed, such as an I-130 or I-485.
If you do not get a response to your follow-up email within 21 days, get in touch with the USCIS Ombudsman.
Another method you could try is to request an in-person appointment via USCIS's online "My Appointment" portal. This is new as of late 2023, so it's impossible to assess whether it will be faster. Also, the result isn't guaranteed, the agency will evaluate your need after you submit the request.
The least useful course of action is to write a letter to USCIS. You are unlikely to get a response, except perhaps a boilerplate letter suggesting that you call the Contact Center. The one exception is if you were already interviewed and were told that you should expect to receive a decision by mail. In this situation, you can write directly to the office where you were interviewed and ask for a decision on your case.
Although you might feel frustrated by delays, remember to be polite. The officer with whom you are speaking is not the one who caused your delay; in fact, this officer is the one you are relying on to help you. You might be justifiably outraged by USCIS's action or inaction, but never insult or threaten the officer with whom you are speaking. At best, such behavior is never helpful; at worst, it could be interpreted as a threat, which could lead to criminal prosecution as well as a quick denial.
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 processing time frames. NVC will also respond to specific questions about your case via its online inquiry form, though this can take a long time.
If the NVC delays in sending your case to the U.S. consulate in your home country, you can submit a case-specific inquiry to the NVC. Be ready with your NVC case number, which you'll find on all correspondence from the NVC.
If your case is delayed at the consulate after the interview, you will need to find out how that particular consulate prefers to receive inquiries. The possibilities are visiting, calling, or writing a letter. Be sure to provide your NVC case number.
An experienced attorney will have plenty of experience dealing with delays by USCIS or the U.S. consulate, and can assist with the task of getting your case back on track.