Dealing with immigration is not simple, and no benefit comes quickly. It would seem unnecessary to even state that but the way the conversations go sometimes, it appears that many people believe the opposite. There are many reasons that make immigration processes complicated, and for many reasons that make them slow. We will tackle some of those in different entries. We want to focus today on just one aspect of the process: the administrative time that takes the government to process an application once it has received it. This has nothing to do with all the time a person already has had to wait to be eligible to file that application, this is just the administrative processing time.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the part of Homeland Security in charge of granting benefits. Therefore, all applications for an immigration benefit are filed with them and they have different timeframes to process them. These vary from the type of benefit sought to the particular office assigned to handle the case. In many occasions, it takes years for a person to become eligible to file for a particular benefit. In other situations, a particular document is reaching its expiration date. Whatever the reason to file, there is administrative time to process the request. The amount of time that takes to process a request has been increasing noticeably in the last few years. USCIS has a section on their website where these timeframes can be reviewed. They have recently revamped it and made it more user-friendly. You can check it out here.
Now, let us look at some common applications and how long one can expect the process to last.
People eligible to apply for a green card while inside the US have to use the form I-485, Application To Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. To file these applications, in family-based cases, one has to send them to a central location and then they transfer to the local office with jurisdiction over the case. Our office is under the jurisdiction of the Dallas Field Office. Today the Dallas Field Office reports that these type of applications take between 11 and 28.5 months to be processed. This an enormous amount of time and an incredibly wide range.
The cards that show a person is a Lawful Permanent Resident (“green cards”) have a 10-year validity. So people in this status need to renew them when the time comes. In order to do that they must submit an I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. This form is not processed locally but in the Potomac Service Center. As of today, they report a processing time of 11-11.5 months. These used to take 90 days, then it went to 180 days, and now it has almost doubled that.
Many survivors of violent criminal activity are eligible for immigration benefits. A common one is the U, nonimmigrant status (for more details, there is an entry available on this blog). The application is the I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. These are filed with the Vermont Service Center who then shares the load with the Nebraska Service Center. They both report today a processing time of 42 to 54.5 months.
The final example, the application needed for a Lawful Permanent Resident to become a US citizen. N-400, Application for Naturalization is the form used in this process and it is a handled locally. Today the Dallas Field Office reports that these applications take from 15-20.5 months. This is up from a 4-5 month period before.
The reasons for these outrageous timeframes are multiple, complex and probably beyond a satisfactory explanation. Our point by covering this information here is just to bring attention to the fact that even when someone is entitled to a benefit by law, obtaining that benefit may take years of waiting for the appropriate time to request it, and then tremendous amounts of time for it to be processed. Immigration law and procedures are complex. People seeking benefits ought to act as soon as they can because it will take a long time. However, the quality of the application packets is primordial. Errors, missing information or documents, and other details may delay an already slow process. We are available to provide the experience of thousands of applications filed upon the course of over three decades to the benefit of your case.