Due to recent increases in processing times for all types of immigration petitions, it can be difficult to know when it is time to contact USCIS to make sure everything is on track with your case. While it may be tempting to call USCIS for frequent updates, it can actually be unwise to contact the agency too often, especially when your application is simply in a line of cases waiting to be processed in the order in which they were received. USCIS officers may become annoyed by excessive or unnecessary follow up, and they also might need to pull your case out of line in order to respond to your follow up request, which can create additional delays.
While in general it may be best to simply try to be patient, there are also instances that call for reaching out to the USCIS service center or field office that has your case. When delays or other errors become extreme, it may even be worthwhile to contact your local congressional liaison to see if there is reasonable cause for them to intervene.
In order to know if you should follow up on your case, it is important to use the resources available to you before spending unnecessary time reporting a delay or error. In this post, we will explain a few situations that warrant a check-in with the government, and how you should go about contacting them.
1. You have not received a receipt notice within 30 days of mailing in your application.
It is always a good idea to use priority (trackable) mail when submitting documents or forms to USCIS. This way, if there are any issues early on, you can confirm that your package was successfully delivered. If your USPS tracking number shows that your case was delivered several weeks ago and still you have not received a receipt notice from USCIS, you should contact them by phone. You will not be able to check on the status of your case or submit an inquiry online until you know your receipt number, which is issued with this notice.
2. Your case has moved outside of the “normal processing times” posted here.
Once you have confirmed that your case is outside of USCIS’s “normal process times”, you should proceed with submitting an online inquiry. If you do not receive a response to your inquiry within 30 days, you should call USCIS to escalate the request. Keep in mind that you will not be able to duplicate your request (by phone or online) if your first request was submitted less than 30 days ago.
Posted processing times are subject to change at any time. Processing times are not “locked in” when you file your case; rather, they are constantly changing and can speed up or slow down dramatically after your case has been filed. For most accurate processing information, you should check the processing times of the service center handling your case and note the “Receipt Date for a Case Inquiry.” This date reflects the receipt date of cases they are currently processing and indicates that if your case was filed before this date, then it is a good idea to follow up on it.
3. Your online status indicates that some type of activity happened on your case more than 30 days ago and you have not received anything by mail.
If your online status shows that a notice was mailed, an interview was scheduled, or a card was produced and you have not received anything in the mail for 30 days following the status change, you should contact USCIS by phone or using the online e-request tools. It is not uncommon for USCIS notices and important cards to be mailed to old addresses or to be returned to USPS as undeliverable. It is important to follow up on this before the card or notice is destroyed or gets buried beneath newer cases at USCIS.
4. You attended an interview at USCIS and have not received a notice or decision for 45 days.
If you attended an interview at USCIS to obtain an immigration benefit and a decision was not made on the spot, you may need to follow up with the local field office where you interviewed. It is normal for it to take 30-60 days (or longer at field offices in large cities) for action to be taken on a case following the interview if additional review is required. However, if a lot of time has passed and USCIS has failed to issue a request for additional documentation or schedule a follow up interview, it is a good idea to send a letter to the local field office. Your immigration attorney may also be able to follow up directly with the interviewing officer in person or by email.
To summarize, if it feels like your case is taking a long time, the first thing you should do is check your case status online to see if any action has been taken. If your case status shows that your application has been received and is processing, you should then check USCIS’s current processing times and compare your receipt date with the dates listed for a case inquiry. Once you have confirmed that your case is actually delayed or that you are missing a notice or other document issued by USCIS, you should proceed with contacting USCIS or your immigration attorney for assistance.