Trying to make sense of immigration processing times long has been an exercise in reading tea leaves. The government posts estimated processing times, and then experience reveals a different reality. Sometimes decisions come sooner. Often, they come much, much later.
Nowadays it can be just as bad applying for a visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad as applying for an immigration benefit stateside. In some cases, the consular officer puts a visa application into “administrative processing,” which is a fancy way of saying the officer is not ready to approve the application and needs more information or background checks. Sometimes it takes just a few days or weeks, but it also can drag out months. Until recently, you could write or call to ask for a status update after 60 days. Now, you need to wait 180 days from the later of your visa interview or when you submitted any extra documents before you can call or write to inquire into your application.
If you’re applying for an immigration benefit in the United States, the news is not any better. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services previously posted dates for various types of applications and petitions. If the posted date was more than 30 days beyond when you submitted your application or petition, you could call and request action on your case. Now, USCIS posts such outrageously broad processing time ranges in an apparent attempt to prevent inquiries. For example, the range for a green card application at the Texas Service Center is 14 – 38 months. An H-1B petition at the California and Vermont Service Centers is estimated to take 6.5 – 12 months. Employment Authorization Document and Advance Parole (travel permit) applications at the National Benefits Center languish for 5 -7 months.
Voicing their frustration, 10 members of Congress from Texas wrote to USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna in March. They cited examples of green card applications taking 19.5 – 24 months and naturalization applications taking 17 – 21.5 months in Houston and asked staffing- and funding-related questions to get to the bottom of the problem. USCIS operates largely on the fees it charges for petitions and applications, so these Representatives wanted to know if they need to allocate funding to address the problem.
The time is ripe to join the conversation and make our voices heard. Help build on the momentum underway by calling your members of Congress to voice your concern over delays in immigration processing times. As the letter to Director Cissna observed, “Immigration is a key aspect of our region’s economic growth, and USCIS’ ability to act in a timely way is imperative to supporting that growth.” We need improved processing times to allow employers to secure the talent they need, families to be unified, and individuals to obtain citizenship. Call or write your elected officials today!