Latest USCIS Processing Times
As the government body tasked with administering the United States’ lawful immigration system, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for adjudicating millions of applications, petitions and requests for immigration benefits each year. Understandably, there can therefore be lengthy wait times when applying to USCIS.
The following guide on USCIS processing times is for anyone wanting to know how long they are likely to wait before being notified of a decision made on their matter. We look at how case processing times are calculated by USCIS and how to check these times. We also look at some of the wait times for different nonimmigrant and immigrant applications.
How are USCIS processing times calculated?
USCIS processing times refer to how long it is likely to take USCIS to decide your case, running from the date of receipt of your application, petition or request, where USCIS will usually adjudicate cases in the order that the relevant paperwork has been received. The most up-to-date publicised case processing times can be found on the USCIS website.
The processing times provided by USCIS are only estimates of how long a particular type of application is likely to take to be adjudicated. This data should therefore only be used as a reference point, not as an absolute measure of how long your case will take to be decided. A number of factors affect USCIS processing times and how long your application type is likely to take to process. This is because each case is unique, where some cases may take longer than others. The caseload of the Embassy or Consulate will also impact timescales.
USCIS updates its website monthly with the latest available data, calculating its processing times by using the most recent timeframes of completed cases, typically based on information captured in the six-month period prior to updating the webpage. As such, even though an accurate projection cannot be given as to how long it will take to complete a case recently filed with USCIS, but rather only an indication based on the latest timeframes, the publicised USCIS processing times will still demonstrate the length of time it took to adjudicate 80% of cases for any given category of application, petition or request.
How to check USCIS processing times
As the vast majority of matters should be adjudicated within the estimated timeframes given by USCIS, it is always worth referring to the ‘Check Case Processing Times’ webpage. This is an online tool where USCIS display case processing times for select forms and locations to let you know how long it generally takes to process benefit requests and when you can contact USCIS with specific queries about your case. You will need to select the form used, the category of form and the location of the office that is processing your case, where you should refer to your receipt notice to find your form, category and office.
It is worth noting that USCIS processing times can vary significantly, not only depending on the nature of your case but the service centre or field office where your matter was submitted. You can use the ‘Field Office Locator’ that can be found on the USCIS website if you need help determining your local office. It is also worth noting that if your case is transferred to another office, you should refer to the processing times for the new office.
Inquire about a case outside normal processing time
Many routine factors can impact how quickly a particular case is processed, where USCIS will only allow inquiries for cases that are well outside the standard processing times.
If your application type is outside these normal USCIS processing times, and has been pending longer than the processing time posted, you can usually submit an online inquiry.
However, please note that USCIS will be actively processing your application if, in the past 60 days, you have:
- Received a notice from USCIS about your case
- Responded to a request for evidence, or
- Received an online update to your case status.
If your application type does not appear on the USCIS processing timetable on its website, and you have not had any indication that your case is being actively processed, you are advised by USCIS to wait six months before submitting any online or other inquiry.
USCIS will also post updated guidance for specific application types.
The ‘Check Case Processing Times’ webpage has an additional online tool that will allow you to enter your receipt date into the text box to find out if you can contact USCIS. This date can be found on Form I-797 (Notice of Action) sent by USCIS on receipt of your case. As USCIS staff focus mostly on adjudicating cases rather than responding to inquiries, so as to manage limited resources, a case inquiry date will not be available until your matter falls outside the time it would take for 93% of cases to be adjudicated based on the latest data.
If your receipt date is within the standard processing time for your form-type, you will be informed that your case is processing normally, with an estimated date when any queries can be raised. This means that you cannot contact USCIS prior to this date. However, as USCIS processing times may change which, in turn, can impact the date upon which you may submit any case inquiry, you should regularly return to this webpage for updates. If your receipt date falls well outside the standard processing times, you will be advised that you can contact USCIS and provided with a service request link for submitting your inquiry.
In addition to checking the most up-to-date USCIS processing times, you can also identify and track the status of your case by entering your receipt number in the online case status tool. This should show you the last action taken on your case and any next steps that may need to be actioned by you, such as where a request has been made for more information.
Processing times for US visa applications
US visit visas from the UK
As the UK is one of the many countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), most British citizens will be able to travel visa-free to the United States, provided they obtain an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). To obtain an ESTA, you are advised to submit an online application at least 72 hours prior to travel. However, if you are not eligible to apply for an ESTA, or your ESTA is denied, you will need to apply for a visit visa. You will also need a visa if you wish to visit the United States for more than 90 days.
When applying for a visa to visit the United States from the UK, you will need to submit Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) and schedule a visa appointment at the US Embassy in London or the Consulate General in Belfast. Form DS-160 is submitted electronically to the Department of State website, where Consular Officers based in the UK will use the information entered on this online form to process your visa application and, combined with an in-person interview, determine your eligibility for a visit visa. There is no requirement for a sponsor to first file a petition on your behalf with USCIS.
Unless your application requires further administrative processing, for example, where additional information or documentation is needed, you should get a decision on the day of your interview. If your visa application is approved during interview, the current average processing time is 5 to 7 working days, although at least a further 2 to 3 workdays should be allowed for delivery. Importantly, visa issuance or processing times cannot be guaranteed in advance, where you are advised not to make any non-refundable travel plans to the US until your visa processing is complete and your passport has been returned to you.
It is also worth noting that the current wait time for an interview at the US Embassy in London is 100 calendar days, and 110 days for the Consulate General in Belfast.
US work visas from the UK
If you wish to work in the United States, even for a temporary period of time, you will require a nonimmigrant work visa, where it is not possible to undertake gainful employment on either a visit visa or under the VWP if you are eligible to travel visa-free.
US work visas are generally based on a specific offer of employment where, in most cases, a petition must be filed and approved by USCIS before applying for your visa at the US Embassy or Consulate. If you are applying for a petition-based visa, your prospective employer or a US-based agent will be required to file an employment-based petition on your behalf using Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker). It is only once the petition has been approved by USCIS, and you are in possession of your petition receipt number, that you may apply for your visa by filing Form DS-160 and scheduling an interview with the US Embassy based in London or the Consulate General in Belfast.
Visa appointment wait times for temporary work visas currently range from between 10 to 12 calendar days, with the additional post-interview processing time of 5 to 7 working days, plus a minimum of 2 to 3 workdays for delivery. However, the USCIS processing times for an employment-based nonimmigrant petition can range between 6 weeks to 2 months.
US fiancé(e) visas from the UK
If you wish to marry a US citizen in the United States and take up indefinite residence after the wedding, you will need a fiancé(e) visa, provided you marry within 90 days of your arrival. This is again a two-stage process, where your US fiancé(e) must file a petition on your behalf with USCIS using Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)), before you can apply to the London Embassy or Belfast Consulate for your visa using Form DS-160.
The USCIS processing times for a Form I-129F petition currently vary from between 5 to 19 months, depending on the location at which your US citizen fiancé(e) files the petition on your behalf. There is no official publicised data on interview wait times for fiancé(e) visas, although this should only be a matter of a few short weeks, with additional post-interview consular processing of 7 to 10 working days for a successful visa application.
US green cards from the UK
If you want to apply for lawful permanent residence in the United States, also known as a green card, the USCIS processing times will depend on the basis upon which you are seeking a green card and where your sponsor is filing a petition on your behalf.
If you are seeking to come to United States from the UK to live permanently with a qualifying relative, they will need to file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). However, the processing times in this context will not only depend on the filing location, but on your familial relationship and whether your sponsor is a US citizen or permanent resident. For example, in cases where permanent residents are acting as the sponsor of their UK spouse, the USCIS processing times can be more than 36 months at a main service centre or over 67 months at a field office. The processing times for US citizens looking to sponsor a spouse are often much shorter, but can still run into several months or more. Equally, for overseas relatives other than spouses, the processing times can run into several years.
For employment-based immigrant petitions, using Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers), the USCIS processing times tend to be more favourable than for family-based petitions. However, the wait times can still range from a few short months to as much as 24 months, depending on the basis upon which a green card for a worker is being sought.
Tips to avoid delays & help reduce USCIS processing times
In some cases, it may be possible to pay for premium processing when filing an application, petition or request with USCIS to expedite processing for certain matters. However, this can be costly and does not necessarily guarantee a successful outcome.
It is therefore always best to seek expert advice from an immigration specialist to help complete the necessary paperwork and ensure that the correct documentation will be filed with any petition or taken with you to interview. In this way, you can maximise the chances that your case will be approved by USCIS, and by the Consular Officer responsible for interviewing you following approval of any petition, while minimising the risk of any delays caused by incomplete information or insufficient documentation.
It is also worth noting that you may be able to travel to the United States in one visa category, but lawfully apply to adjust your status once you are there, although expert advice should again be sought here to explore your legitimate options. Additionally, for those of you who are already lawfully in the United States, but looking to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident, it may be possible to concurrently file an immigrant petition and your green card application using Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). This can help to streamline the process and potentially reduce the overall waiting time. You should also be allowed to stay in the US until your case is adjudicated, regardless of the USCIS processing times.
NNU Immigration are attorneys specializing in US visa and citizenship applications. For expert guidance and support with your US visa application, contact us.
USCIS processing times 2024 FAQs
What is the processing time for USCIS 2023?
Up-to-date USCIS processing times can be found on the ‘Check Case Processing Times’ webpage using the online tool. By selecting the form, category of form and location where the case is being adjudicated, the estimated wait time will be displayed.
Why is USCIS so slow now?
Several factors can impact USCIS processing times, including the number of applications, petitions or requests received, together with workload allocations and staffing levels. Case-specific factors can also make an individual adjudication more complex, such as where an application is incomplete.
What do USCIS processing times mean?
USCIS processing times refer to how long it is likely to take for your application, petition or request to be adjudicated, although the times provided on the USCIS website are only estimates, where some cases may take longer than others.
Is processing time on USCIS accurate?
The publicised USCIS processing times should only be used as a reference point, not an absolute measure of how long your case will take to be decided. This is because these are estimated timeframes only based on recently adjudicated cases.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.