According to a 2019 policy announcement, USCIS has been transferring some Naturalization (N-400) and Adjustment of Status (I-485) cases to different field offices for quicker processing. Due to long wait times for interview appointments at USCIS field offices in major cities, USCIS has announced that it will begin moving cases to the next closest office for these appointments.
For the Pacific Northwest, this means that many Seattle-based cases will be moved to Portland and Yakima, depending on the applicant’s address.
This change aims to reduce the backlog and long processing times at high-volume processing centers. Applicants should note that their biometric (fingerprinting) appointment will still take place at their local office, but their interview may be transferred to another office, sometimes several hours away. This is good news for those living in major metropolitan areas but could mean longer wait times for individuals living in smaller cities who have, until now, been fortunate to experience shorter wait times and short lines in general when dealing with USCIS.
This policy was implemented in 2019 and was the first of many changes as USCIS aims to address the “crisis level” delays and growing backlog. At the time of the policy’s start, there were approximately 5.6 million cases that were in limbo in the application system. This backlog was brought to the public’s attention by a group of concerned Senators. These and other Senators, as well as immigration attorneys, have been demanding action and transparency from USCIS to deal with the exceedingly long wait times and overall slow-down in the processing of all types of cases over the past few years.
While this processing center change may reduce some of the burden at USCIS field offices in Seattle and other major cities, it does not necessarily address the deeper issues and suspected misallocation of resources at USCIS. The underlying problems that are creating and perpetuating the backlog need to be addressed before any long-term and meaningful changes can take place.
Naturalization and Adjustment of Status applicants should pay special attention to notices they receive to ensure they know where their appointments are taking place. While it may be inconvenient to travel many hours for an appointment at USCIS, it could mean shaving several weeks or months off of the processing time of your case.
For those applicants who have completed all the necessary forms and are waiting for an appointment for interviewing, this could be good news for the timeline of your request. However, if you haven’t filed your I-485 or N-400 form yet, there is some other information to be aware of to ensure your application does not get delayed due to incorrect filing.
You may choose to complete your Form N-400 online or mail a paper copy to the USCIS. It can be beneficial to submit the N-400 electronically because creating an account online provides additional tools. You will be able to check the status of your case, view case updates, and receive a personalized estimate for the completion of your case.
However, if you choose to mail your Form N-400, you must ensure that the application goes to the correct direct filing location. You can find a comprehensive list of addresses online on the USCIS website. Once you submit your paper form, you will be mailed an Account Acceptance Notice that includes additional information. This mailing will encourage you to create an online account, but you should not feel pressured to do so. The USCIS will still process your application, regardless of your online account status.
The fee for filing your Form N-400 is $725, which includes the $640 application fee and $85 for the biometrics fee. You may pay this fee online, or if you don’t have an account, you can also pay in the following ways:
Applicants over the age of 75 do not need to pay the biometrics fee, so their total would be $640.
If you plan on filing more than one N-400 form, you should still pay each filing fee separately. Your application can be rejected if you combine payments for multiple N-400s.
Similarly, filing a Form I-485 has specific and complex requirements. Check your eligibility category to determine where to file your I-485, as the filing address will be different based on several factors. After applying, you should receive an A-Number, which is your registration number. Keep track of this number in case you need to refer to it later.
The fee for filing a Form I-485 varies; there isn’t one set fee like there is for many other forms. The fee is based on age of the applicant, as well as whether or not a minor applicant is filing along with a parent. If you are filing Form I-485 as an Afghan special immigrant, there is no fee required through September of 2023. You can find the specific fees on the USCIS website.
There may also be supporting documentation that you must submit. This is important because your application may be denied if you do not complete this step. Exactly what additional documents are required will vary, but there are some general rules you should follow, including the following:
Following all of the required steps and procedures will help your application move smoothly through the system and could prevent time-consuming errors. For personalized assistance with your USCIS forms or immigration case, visit our website or contact Passage Immigration at (503) 427-8243.
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