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How to Determine When Your Immigration Petition or Application will be Processed

Your Go-To Immigration Resource

New automated pilot methodology

It’s a common and frustrating issue when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) gives you an estimated processing time for your immigration petition/application and it ends up being several months off. Inconsistent filing times are inconvenient for applicants who are planning to travel outside the United States and must wait longer than anticipated. And it’s also vexing for employers who filed on behalf of their workers but must wait longer for their application to be approved.

In the hopes of fixing this far too common problem, USCIS launched a new automated pilot program in March 2018 designed to produce more accurate processing times for immigration petitions and applications. The only drawback is that this pilot program only extends to the four most common immigration cases:

  • N-400, Naturalization application
  • I-90, Replace Permanent Resident Card (green card) application
  • I-485, Permanent Resident Card or Adjustment of Status
  • I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence

According to an article by American Immigration Council, USCIS time calculations can greatly vary in range because the new automated program estimates time “based on the previous month’s completions, with the low end reflecting the time needed to complete 50 percent of the cases and the high end showing the time it took to complete 93 percent of cases.” This automated program will be able to provide information on processing times for the four major immigration cases within two weeks, rather than the six weeks previously required. Following is a table from USCIS with time estimations for Permanent Residence cases using the new automated program:

Table 1: Estimated Processing Time for Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485), July 2018
USCIS Field Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Estimated Time Range I-485 Form Type Case Inquiry Receipt Date
10 months to 19.5 months Employment-based adjustment applications December 20, 2016
10.5 months to 23.5 months Family-based adjustment applications August 22, 2016

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Check Case Processing Times,” accessed July 17, 2018, https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/.


Although this new pilot program should provide more accurate estimations of processing times for certain cases, the methodology does fall short for those with multi-step adjudications and interviews, which often take place sequentially and must be calculated by adding estimated times together.

Estimated times for non-pilot cases

For those cases not part of the automated pilot program, the methodology for estimating the time of completion lacks transparency and the results are even less certain. On their website, USCIS states that “the high end for the non-pilot forms will be adjusted by 30 percent above current cycle times to reflect the time it takes to complete a majority of the cases.” However, this vague statement is not further explained, failing to say where the 30 percent figure is coming from or what it is being added to.

What to do if your case processing time surpasses the Case Inquiry Date

Phone Inquiry
If your case’s processing time surpasses the Case Inquiry Date, you can reach out to USCIS via telephone for assistance: 1-800-375-5283.

Online Service Request
You can also create an online service request if your case takes longer than the estimated high end time. Create a service request here.

Online Case Status
Finally, you can also check your case’s status on the USCIS website by creating an account at uscis.gov/casestatus.

Final thoughts

The new automatic pilot system won’t fix all of the backlog problems with USCIS and more drastic changes need to be made to solve this issue. More transparency and systems need to be set in place to increase accuracy in case processing time estimates so that families and employers are faced with less stress and hardship from the uncertainty of when their case will go through. This new automated pilot program is substantial progress in fixing the issue of backlogged cases, but more needs to be done.