USCIS Sent RFE, I Sent in Documents, But Still No Approval: Now What?

Dealing with slow USCIS processing after subsequent evidence was sent in responding to an RFE.

By , J.D. · University of Washington School of Law

In the course of submitting immigration-related applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) it is common for foreign-born applicants or their U.S. sponsors to hit a roadblock: the RFE. This means that USCIS felt it could not approve (or deny) the application right away, but instead has sent a "Request for Evidence," typically asking for more documents proving an element required for application approval. USCIS typically gives 60 days as a deadline.

Let's imagine, for example, that you are a U.S. citizen who sent an I-130 family-based petition to USCIS months ago, to start the process of getting your spouse and children a U.S. green card. Weeks later, you received the RFE by mail, asking for a more official copy of your marriage certificate. You dutifully sent this in before the deadline. Now, you have been waiting and waiting. USCIS has neither approved nor denied the I-130 petition. Is this normal? What are you supposed to do next? This article will discuss just that.

Typical USCIS Processing Times After Someone Responds to RFE

Delays are, in fact, often "normal" when it comes to USCIS processing of immigration-related applications and petitions. The agency is reluctant to promise any particular time frame when it comes to responding to RFE submissions, given that each case is unique and some issues are more complex than others.

For example, an application where the person simply forgot to include a birth certificate the first time around will take a lot less time to decide on than one where USCIS asked for evidence of a bona fide marriage (which could mean the applicant has to send in large numbers of documents of their own choosing, with a goal of persuading USCIS on a topic that is not clear cut).

Some factors that play into how long it takes USCIS to make a decision on the case include:

  • its current priorities for adjudicating (deciding on) the particular type of case
  • whether you submitted all the information requested, and
  • whether, if USCIS plans to deny the case, the denial has been reviewed by a supervisor.

Most people who have responded to an RFE can, however, expect further action by USCIS within about 60 days.

What If the USCIS Processing Time Seems Ridiculously Long?

If you do not receive a response or update within 94 days after USCIS originally sent you the RFE, it's a good idea to reach out to the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283.

Set aside some time for this task. You will be dealing with a system that tries to screen out all but the most urgent requests, and getting to a live person is all but impossible on your first try. The more likely scenario is that you will have to leave your number for a call-back. It's a good idea to start the process early in the day, on a day when you will be mostly reachable. After the call-back, if the officer can't resolve your issue by phone, they might schedule an in-person appointment for you.

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 is not guaranteed: The agency will evaluate your need to meet with a USCIS officer in person after you submit the request.

Hiring an attorney is another option, in case your immigration petition or application is bogged down for complicated legal reasons.

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