USCIS Processing Times (Application Waiting Times)
USCIS publish processing times to provide indication to applicants of how long they should expect to wait to hear a decision on their type of application from the date of receipt.
The times provided by USCIS act as a guide; a number of factors affect USCIS processing times and how long your application type is likely to take to process.
In response to the confusion arising out of the method of calculating USCIS processing times, USCIS are currently testing a new pilot scheme to calculate processing times for four of the most widely used immigration benefit applications: Forms I-90, I-485, I-751 and N-400. These include applications for lawful permanent residence and citizenship in the United States.
Calculating USCIS processing times
USCIS calculate processing times by using historical data of completed cases, whereby USCIS processing times are currently based on data captured around two months prior to updating its webpage.
As such, USCIS cannot project how long it will take to complete a matter filed today. Furthermore, USCIS has long been faulted for underestimating the amount of time actually required to process applications.
Add into the mix the fact that that processing times may change without prior notice, then many applicants are left confused, with neither applicants nor employers who have filed petitions on behalf of prospective or existing workers having a realistic idea of how long their applications or petitions will be stuck in the backlog.
In turn, this makes it virtually impossible to judge when an applicant will become available for work or be able to travel internationally. As such, the lack of case information means USCIS applicants must often put professional, travel and personal plans on hold.
Pilot scheme for USCIS processing times
The pilot scheme covers applications made using Forms I-90, I-485, I-751 and N-400. In these types of application USCIS processing times are being shown as a range, whereby the first number is the time it takes to complete 50% of cases, ie; the median, and the second number is the time it takes to complete 93% of cases.
With this method it is hoped that USCIS can post processing times that are more accurate, timely and easier to understand.
Although the old method will continue to be used to calculate processing times for non-pilot forms, USCIS has stated that the high end will be adjusted by 30% above current cycle times to reflect the time it takes to complete a majority of the cases.
In other words, it will be adding an upper limit that is generally 130% of the processing time.
How to check USCIS processing times
You can view an estimate of how much time USCIS is taking to process your application type on the USCIS website.
When checking the USCIS processing times for different application types online, these should include a “receipt date for a case inquiry” to show when you can enquire about your case.
This date is the upper end of the range converted to a date. If your receipt date is before the “receipt date for a case inquiry”, you can submit an “outside normal processing time” service request online.
Your receipt notice will contain key information you will need to determine your processing time, for example, the form or case type, your receipt number, your receipt date and the USCIS office dealing with your application.
If the USCIS Office is the National Benefits Center and you have filed an employment-based or family-based Form I-485, Form N-400 or Form N-600, you should check processing times for your local field office.
In some instances, your application type may not be listed in the processing timetable on the USCIS website. In these circumstances USCIS will endeavour to make a decision on your application or petition within 6 months of filing.
What are the factors affecting USCIS processing times?
Processing times can vary dramatically depending on the nature of your application or petition and the type of form that you have submitted to USCIS. The times can also vary depending upon the field office or service centre where you submitted your application or petition.
By way of example, the USCIS processing times at the Nebraska Service Center for an H-1B Speciality Occupation extension of stay in the US is 2.5 to 4.5 months, whereas at the Vermont or California Service Center this is 7.5 to 9.5 months.
What if my application is outside normal USCIS 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, for example, the website currently advises the following:
- If you are a petitioner for an H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker and your Form I-129 has been pending longer than 15 days and you have not received a decision or a Request for Evidence, you may contact USCIS at (1-800) 375-5283 to inquire about your petition.
- If you are a DACA renewal applicant please contact USCIS at (1-800) 375-5283 to inquire on a case pending longer than 105 days.
- If you are applying for your initial employment authorisation based on having a pending asylum application and USCIS does not adjudicate the application within 30 days, you may be a member of the class action case, Rosario v. USCIS, Case No. C15-0813JLR. Here USCIS refers you to the uscis.gov/rosario webpage for further information and how to investigate the status of your employment authorisation application.
When might premium processing be available?
Premium Processing is a service provided by USCIS that expedites processing for certain employment-based petitions and applications.
Specifically, USCIS guarantees 15-calendar day processing to those petitioners or applicants who choose to use this service or USCIS will refund the fee. Even if the fee is refunded, the relating case will continue to receive expedited processing.
The 15 calendar day period will run from the date of receipt of the current version of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, at the correct filing address noted on the form.
If the petition or application requires the submission of additional evidence or a response to a notice of intent to deny, a new 15 calendar day period will begin upon receipt by USCIS of a complete response to the request for evidence or notice of intent to deny.
The fee for premium processing is currently $1,410 and is payable in addition to all other filing fees required by the application or petition you are submitting.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.