There are backlogs in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing of applications and petitions. This leaves businesses and families to wonder what the processing times are. In March 2018, the agency began a pilot program to calculate processing times for some cases in a new way.
THE PILOT PROGRAM
The pilot program covers the following types of common applications and petitions:
- N-400, Application for Naturalization
- I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card
- I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status; and
- I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence
USCIS posts processing times on its website here. USCIS now provides a time range for processing case types covered by the pilot program. Here is an example:
The agency calculates processing times based on the number of cases completed the prior month, with the low end reflecting the time needed to complete 50% of the cases and the high end showing the time it took to adjudicate 93% of the cases. As you can see, the estimated time range is quite broad.
For case types not covered by the pilot program, USCIS reports processing times in a similar format to the pilot program. But the method for calculating processing times lacks transparency, according to the nonprofit American Immigration Council. Also, the high end oddly reflects processing times “30 percent above current cycle times.”
INQUIRING ABOUT CASES OUTSIDE NORMAL PROCESSING RANGES
USCIS will accept inquiries about delayed cases only if the case was filed prior to the posted “case inquiry receipt date.” At that point, an inquiry may be made to the USCIS Contact Center by phone, online, or by making an InfoPass appointment (if the case is pending at a USCIS local field office).
The USCIS Ombudsman’s Office will also provide case assistance to individuals who have attempted to resolve their cases directly with USCIS and wait 60 days past the posted case inquiry date before asking the Ombudsman’s Office for help.
The pilot program does more accurately predict processing times but only within very wide ranges. As a result of USCIS backlogs and wide processing time ranges, businesses and families often must put professional, travel, and personal plans on hold for long and uncertain periods of time.