USCIS Practice of Transferring Applications Makes Checking Processing Times Difficult

If you have submitted a petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an immigration benefit, such as an I-130 for a family visa petition or an I-129F for a fiancé visa, your next step is to wait.

If you have submitted a petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an immigration benefit, such as an I-130 for a family visa petition or an I-129F for a fiancé visa, your next step is to wait. And waiting for USCIS action can take longer than people expect, often lasting many weeks or months. The backup has been especially extreme lately, with USCIS having sent out an announcement to people on its email list stating:

“We recognize that some cases are taking longer to complete than usual and apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused. Current personnel resources do not align with the present caseload, but we are working to address the staffing shortages and workload issues that are causing the delays.”

One tool that applicants can use to track their wait for a USCIS decision is the Processing Times section of the USCIS website. Here, you can choose the name of the office handling your case from a dropdown menu and get a list for each type of application of either how long applicants are currently waiting or the submission dates of applications that are currently receiving USCIS review and action.

However, if you sent your application to a USCIS service center, checking the processing times this way might not yield the information you'll need. Under current practice, USCIS service centers often transfer cases in order to more evenly distribute their workload.

So, for example, someone petitioning to bring an overseas fiancé to the U.S. may first be notified that processing on the Form I-129F will take place at the Vermont Service Center. But the case may be transferred to the California Service Center if there are fewer fiancé visa applications in the queue there.

Hopefully, such a transfer will speed your case up, but you will need to realize that the processing time to check online will be at at the center to which your case was transferred. You should receive a letter notifying you of the transfer to a new service center. Additionally, the “Check My Case Status” tool on the USCIS website should notify applicants that the case has been transferred to a new service center.

While checking the case-processing times using the above method is definitely a good idea, it's by no means a guarantee. An immigration attorney may have a better sense of what the processing timelines are and help you strategize accordingly.