According to a recent policy announcement, USCIS will begin 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.

We predict that this new policy may be the first of many as USCIS aims to address the “crisis level” delays and growing backlog of 5.6 million cases that a group of Senators recently brought to the public’s attention. Senators and immigration attorneys alike are demanding action and transparency from USCIS to deal with the exceedingly long wait times and overall slow-down in processing of all types of cases over the past three years. While this 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 that are creating and perpetuating the backlog to begin with.

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.