Why Does Immigration Processing Take So Long?

1161062_tourists.jpgIf there is one question that immigration lawyers hear every day it is, "Why hasn't my application been approved yet?" We understand that it can be very frustrating for applicants, their family members, and their employers to wait for a very long time before receiving a decision. In certain situations, there may be a way to expedite an immigration application, but the decision to do so should be undertaken very carefully as explained below.

The government agency called U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the entity that reviews and decides application for immigration benefits. (The U.S. Department of labor also reviews certain immigration-related applications but does not make the ultimate decision on whether applicant qualifies for nonimmigrant or immigrant status). As a courtesy to foreign nationals, family members, and employers who have filed immigrant applications, USCIS has a table of processing times on its website. The downside to this table is that USCIS does not update it every day and the timeframes listed on it are just estimates - many applicants see that their cases are decided far after the posted timeframe.

The biggest reason for processing delays is the sheer volume of cases that USCIS receives. Every year, USCIS receives hundreds of thousands (and some years, even millions) of cases, each needing to be carefully reviewed before a decision may be issued. There simply is not enough USCIS adjudicators to cope with the demand, which has resulted in the backlog of cases that applicants now experience.

In the effort to alleviate the processing delay, USCIS allows a small category of petitions to be "upgraded" to a premium processing service. An application filed via this service is adjudicated within 15 business days. This expedited requires an additional filing fee of $1,225 which is paid to USCIS. Cases that are eligible for premium processing service include applications filed on the Form I-129 (H-1B classification, O-1 classification, L-1 classification, etc.), and applications filed on the Form I-140 (except for those applicants seeking a National Interest Waiver).

Now, the opportunity to receive a decision on a case in 15 days is quite attractive to many applicants. However, not all cases are good candidates for the premium processing service. In the experience of immigration attorneys, many cases that are reviewed in the premium processing department undergo a heightened level of scrutiny as compared to cases in the regular processing department of USCIS. This increased level of scrutiny has led to many cases in the premium processing department receiving Requests for Evidence or even denials - when a similar case that was filed via regular processing was approved without issue (though on a longer timeframe).

For this reason, it is highly important that those applicants who are interested in upgrading their petition to premium processing consult a skilled attorney to help determine if the expedited service is a good fit for their case. Call our office at 650-293-0270 to speak to a member of our legal team about your options for premium processing.

Additional Blog Posts

Green Card Bill Passes for Widows of U.S. Citizens, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, October 23, 2009
USCIS Announces Provisional I-601 Waiver, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, January 16, 2013

Work Visas / by Michelle Gee