The US immigration process can be highly frustrating, and processing times are unpredictable. It can take weeks to months to file an immigration case and to receive confirmation that your case is processing. Once your application is in processing, it can take months to years to receive a final decision on your case. Even then, it can be very difficult to get a clear answer on where your application stands. Here, we discuss what your options are if your immigration case is taking longer than normal.
Check to see if your case is within normal case processing time.
When your application is received for processing, it is assigned a receipt number that can be used to track the progress of your case against listed processing times. These processing times are what are referred to as, “normal processing time.” Normal processing time is the typical processing time the government agency handling your immigration matter usually takes to make a decision on your application. Some cases can take years to process and this can be considered normal for the application type. Just because haven’t heard back on your case for months or even years, that doesn’t always mean that your immigration case is stuck or delayed.
If your case is within the normal processing time, no action can be taken on your case. Your case is in line waiting and processing normally. The waiting game can be very frustrating and the government does not typically take action on cases within normal processing times.
What do I do if my case is outside normal processing times?
If you have checked the processing of your case against normal processing times, and it is outside normal processing times, you can take the following steps. Make sure to have your receipt notice, receipt number, and the details of your case handy:
- Call a USCIS Customer Service Representative. You can call a customer service representative at USCIS. This process can be a very frustrating experience and can take a lot amount of time. The typical USCIS customer service representative is not able to answer detailed questions, and the information they provide is often the same as you already have received by mail or through the online case status. Calling USCIS is a step that should be taken as it can lead to notifying the officer handling your case of the inquiry.
- Inside the United States – Call 1-800-375-5283 Monday to Friday, 8 am to 8 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST).
- Outside the United States – Call 1-212-620-3418
- Ask Emma. USCIS offers an online chat function through “Emma.” Emma answers general questions about your immigration case. Ask Emma
- Submit an Online Case Inquiry. If your case is taking longer than normal processing times, you might qualify to submit an online case inquiry. Case Inquiry – Outside Normal Processing Time
- Make an Infopass Appointment with USCIS. Only certain cases qualify for in-person assistance through an Inforpass appointment. USCIS will only schedule in-person appointments for applicants who need a service that CAN NOT be provided by phone or email. For example:
- If someone needs proof of their immigration status to work or travel
- Emergency travel documents
- Call the Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 to request an appointment.
- Write a letter to USCIS asking for clarification on your case. The tools provided by USCIS are not always effective and can lead to even more frustration. An additional option to obtain information about your case is to write a letter directly to USCIS. The letter should be addressed to the supervisor of your USCIS jurisdiction. You should provide your personal and case information and write the questions you need to be answered. The more concise you are the more likely are to receive a response. Be respectful in your letter as a poorly written letter can hurt your case. Letters are not always successful, but sometimes cases get lost in the shuffle, and writing a letter can get the reviewing officer to look at your case. If they choose to respond to your letter it can take several weeks or even months.
- CIS Ombudsman Support – The purpose of the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman’s Office is to improve the quality of citizenship and immigration services by providing individual case assistance, identifying systemic issues, and making recommendations to improve the administration of immigration benefits through USCIS. Here’s how—and when—to seek their assistance.
- Congressional Assistance – If you have a pending immigration case that is beyond normal processing times and you have used all available administrative remedies to move the case forward, your congressional representative may be able to assist. We explain how to get help from your congressional representative when your immigration case has stalled.
Contact an immigration lawyer and threaten a lawsuit.
If USCIS still fails to act on your case, you can threaten to file a civil lawsuit against the government, a mandamus action. No one, not even USCIS, likes a lawsuit. The mere threat of a lawsuit can be a useful way of getting USCIS to act on your case. Rather than get caught up in a lawsuit, USCIS will simply decide your case. Threatening a lawsuit will not have a negative impact on your case. Even if the threat of a lawsuit makes USCIS act on your case, it does not guarantee a positive outcome.
File a mandamus action.
The last resort, after you have exhausted all available administrative remedies, threatened a lawsuit, and the US government still fails to act on your case; you may be able to find relief with a mandamus action. A mandamus (or writ of mandamus) is an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to fulfill their official duties properly. This action can be taken to correct an abuse of discretion or compel the administrative agency to take action where there is an unreasonable delay in an immigration matter. A writ of mandamus is considered a last resort that should only be used after all other administrative remedies are exhausted.
We Can Help!
The immigration lawyers at Richards and Jurusik Immigration Law have more than 30+ years of experience helping people to live and work in the United States. If you are having problems with your application or considering taking legal action against the government, contact us today for a free assessment of your legal situation.