Delays in the application process are very common and should not always be a cause for concern. The bureaucratic process of immigration is often long and drawn out and may be frustrating at times.
If your application process is taking longer than expected or you learn of a potential problem with your application, you should seek counsel from an immigration lawyer.
How Long is too Long?
The time it takes for processing can vary depending on the number of people included with your application, as well as many other factors.
If you’re waiting to receive an initial receipt for an I-129F or I-130 petition filed by your spouse or fiancé, you should be willing to wait patiently for about six weeks. If it takes longer than that, you should make an inquiry with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
If you know your application has been received by USCIS and want to know how long processing should take, you can go to www.uscis.gov and click on “Tools” at the top of the page and then click on “Check your Case Status Online” under “Manage Your Case”.
After entering your receipt number you can check the processing times at the office where you will be interviewed.
If you are undergoing consular processing and want to know how long you should expect to wait to be scheduled for an interview, you can check that information with your local consulate by going to www.usembassy.gov.
Select your consulate or if you do not see your consulate you may need to call its public information phone number. You can also try emailing the National Visa Center (NVC) at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 603-334-0700. If you call the NVC, be ready to provide your case number, which is included on all correspondence from the NVC.
How to Check on Your Application
If you are waiting on an initial receipt, you should check with your bank to see if the check included with your application was cashed. If it was, try to find the receipt number, which USCIS may use to track your case.
Other ways to find out whether USCIS has received your application may mean including Form G-1145 with your submission, which tells USCIS to text or email you when they have received your application. You can also mail your application with a tracking number and follow your application with the USPS or whichever mail provider your selected to deliver your application.
Once you’ve determined that USCIS has received your package, call USCIS Customer Service at 800-375-5283 to ask about the status of your application.
After your application has been received, you should also receive a receipt notice with a processing number. It should start with a three-letter abbreviation such as WAC, LIN, EAC, TSC, or MSC.
If you are processing your case at a consulate, the NVC will assign you a case number. Once you have been issued a case number, this should be hugely important to you for tracking your application and making inquiries at any time.
If a USCIS office has your application and you would like to inquire about a delay, the best way to do so is to schedule an appointment. You can do this by going to www.uscis.gov and clicking on “Tools” then “Make an Appointment” under “Manage Your Case”.
Another way to make an inquiry without traveling to a USCIS office is to call the Customer Service number at 800-375-5283. This is unlikely to provide an immediate answer for you but should initiate an inquiry that will result in a response at a later date.
You might also be able to check your case status by going to the e-Request link at www.uscis.gov.
Incomplete Applications or Lost Portions
If USCIS or the NVC is missing something that will be necessary for processing your application, such as evidence of your marriage or financial documents, you may receive a Request for Evidence (RFE).
If you receive an RFE you should try to send any information or materials to the office as soon as possible. Even if you have proof that you already sent the requested materials, assume it’s been lost and you will need to send another one.
You should include the original RFE as a cover letter for the documents you send in addition to a cover letter explaining what you’re sending them.
If the missing material is a check or money order you’ve already sent, don’t respond immediately with another payment until you find out what happened to the first one.
If it’s a check, find out from your bank if the check has been cashed. If so, find proof from your bank and send this to USCIS showing both sides of the check so they can see their own stamp on it.
If you sent a money order and kept the receipt, call the company that issued the money order to find out if it’s been cashed. If it has, ask for a copy of proof to provide to USCIS.
Planning Ahead to Avoid Delays
Because unexpected situations can arise and cause hassles for everyone, it’s wise to plan in advance to minimize the risk of delay in your application process.
You should keep a copy of everything you send in with your application. You want to make sure you do this because if USCIS loses something, you could be left out to dry if you don’t have a second copy.
Using Priority Mail (if you’re in the United States) is the most secure shipping method. Priority Mail ensures quick delivery in an expected number of days. Using private services like FedEx can be risky because some USCIS addresses are Post Office boxes which these companies will not deliver to.
If Your Situation Requires Immediate Application Processing
If there’s an emergency situation or other reason that your application should be given immediate attention, you should contact an immigration attorney for assistance. Working with someone who knows the law and has experience helping people in your situation will greatly increase your chances of getting the result you want.
Emergency situations which could result in expedited processing include a family member dying in your home country during your green card processing or a scheduled surgery on the same day as an important USCIS appointment.
To notify USCIS that your application deserves immediate attention, you should include a letter attached to your application. This letter should explain your situation that calls for immediate attention and ask for your application to be moved into expedited processing.
If you already mailed your application without a letter requesting expedited processing, you can send a letter separately. If you need to do this, include a note on the outside of your envelope in large bold letters saying “URGENT! PLEASE EXPEDITE!”
These requests for attention should be limited to true emergencies and, if possible, you should include proof of your situation such as a letter from a doctor.