** LEGAL UPDATE **
Figuring out how long it will take U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process your immigration petition or application has always required a bit of "guesstimating" based upon historical processing times, backlogs, and other factors. However, there is a new tool that might provide greater insight as to how long you may have to wait to receive a decision on your case.
USCIS posts the dates of applications that are currently being worked on at each regional service center or local field office on its Check Case Processing Times website. If the receipt date on your application is earlier than the date listed at the service center or field office where your application is being processed, you can usually expect to receive a decision or other action on your case shortly.
If you don't receive a decision or action within the typical time frame, USCIS considers your case to be "outside normal processing times." It encourages such applicants to put in a service request by calling the USCIS Customer Service number at 1-800-375-5283 or lodging an e-request by providing information online.
However, USCIS recently announced a pilot program that provides data on case-processing times that is updated every two weeks. (In the past, updated information was posted only every six weeks.) This new methodology might offer a better idea of the normal processing times for four popular USCIS forms:
- Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
- Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and
- Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.
To get this information, visit the "Check Processing Times" website
and select one of the above four form numbers and the service center or field number where your application is processed.
For naturalization applications (Form N-400), the field office will be the one located closest to your home address. Applications to renew or replace a green card (Form I-90) are processed at the Potomac Service Center. For petitions to remove conditions (Form I-751), usually the Vermont Service Center or California Service Center will handle your case. Applications to adjust status to permanent resident can be found at either the service centers or the field offices.
If you are unsure where your application is being handled, you can call USCIS Customer Service at 1-800-375-5283 to find out.
These new case-processing times provide a date range that is considered the normal processing time for applications located at the service centers and field offices. According to USCIS, "[t]he low end of the range for pilot forms shows the time it takes to complete 50 percent of cases, and the high end shows the time it takes to complete 93 percent of cases." USCIS instructs applicants to make case inquiries if you have been waiting longer than the higher end of the range.
For example, in early April 2018, the case processing range for a Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence at the California Service Center was between 17.5 months and 19 months, and USCIS provided a case inquiry date of September 12, 2016. So if the receipt number on your petition was on or before September 12, 2016, your application would be outside of normal processing times and you would have good reason to call USCIS Customer Service or submit an e-request.
This pilot program is still in its early stages. It remains to be seen how accurate the posted times are or how well it will work, but it is encouraging to see USCIS attempting to give its customers a better sense of how long it will take to receive a decision on their cases. Nolo will provide updates here if other forms are added to the pilot program in the future.
Effective Date: March 22, 2018