Between 2017 and 2018 alone, the average United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing time rose with 19% despite the overall number of cases received declining by 13%. Anyone who has applied for an immigration benefit will know the waiting times can be frustrating. One of the most commonly asked questions is, “how long does it take for USCIS to make a decision after an interview?”.
Although there isn’t a hard and fast answer to this question, there are a few factors that can influence how long the USCIS takes to make a decision.
Let’s take a look.
The time it takes the USCIS to make a decision on your application depends on a lot of factors. Just two of them are what type of application you are making and where you are making your application from, as some processing centers are faster than others.
Unfortunately, it is quite common for the USCIS to take a long time to make a formal decision in cases like naturalization and green card applications.
Technically, the USCIS has to provide you with a decision on your naturalization application within 120 days of your naturalization interview. In a green card application,
the USCIS is supposed to provide you with an official notification of their decision within 30 days of your interview. But this is not always the case.
Let’s take a look at why the USCIS may be taking their time and what you can do about it.
Why Does it Take So Long for USCIS to Make Decision?
Well, there are many reasons.
Firstly, the USCIS is a Federal sub-agency that has to process thousands of applications.
Unfortunately, sometimes the sheer volume of work cannot be handled by their limited capacity. Also, new policies at the USCIS often add restrictions to the different immigration applications, which adds work for the USCIS and, as a result, extends processing time.
The other factors that could influence your application being delayed will depend on the type of application you are making. Let’s take a look at a green card application and naturalization application as examples.
Green Card Application
Usually, the USCIS officer conducting your green card interview will tell you whether your green card is approved directly after your interview. But in some cases, the USCIS officer will need to put off the final decision due to a lack of evidence.
If this is the case, the USCIS will send you a Request for Evidence (RFE). Generally, this only happens if something unusual has come up in your interview, which the USCIS officer wants more information about. Or it can happen if they believe something is missing in your application.
If you receive an RFE, you will have between 30 and 90 days to respond and provide the required information. The USCIS will only give you a final decision on your green card application after receiving the required information. If you have to deal with an RFE, you may have to wait a few weeks or even months while the RFE is sorted out.
While an RFE is one of the most common reasons the USCIS takes long to make a decision, there are still other reasons which could apply.
Before your green card can be approved, you need to pass all the relevant background checks and other security measures. It also happens that sometimes you complete your green card interview before the different parts of your application have finished processing. For example, if the FBI is still processing your fingerprints, you will only receive your green card after they’ve finished.
If everything goes well in your citizenship application and the USCIS has all the information it needs to make a final decision, you could have your application approved on the same day as your citizenship interview. If this is not the case, then the USCIS has to provide an answer within 120 days.
Sometimes the final naturalization decision can still be delayed even if the USCIS provides an update in 120 days. This could either be because you did not entirely pass your citizenship exam, or because you did not provide the USCIS with all the appropriate and required information.
If you didn’t successfully pass your exam, you would have to retake the citizenship exam. If the USCIS is only requesting additional information, you will have 30 days to provide it. The sooner you provide the information, the sooner you will have a final decision.
Why is it Taking USCIS So Long to Make a Decision?
As you can see above, there are a few reasons the USCIS can take long to make a decision.
If you are concerned or unsure about your case’s status and want to know precisely why the USCIS is taking so long, check the status of your case and most recent updates online on the my USCIS Case Status Search page.
If you are getting concerned, consult an immigration attorney.
They will be able to advise whether there are any actions you can take to speed things up.
Again, this will depend on the type of application you are making.
For example, in a naturalization application, you
can apply for judicial review of your naturalization application in a U.S. Federal District Court. This is possible if you don’t receive a decision after 120 days.
Sometimes you will find the USCIS claims your post-interview naturalization case is “stuck”. This is quite common. But of course, you want your case to become “unstuck”. To do this, you would have to file a motion in your Federal District Court. Often merely filing a motion is enough to “force” the USCIS’s hand to decide your case. Other times you might have to take the process further.
You would need to consult an immigration attorney to assist you with such a motion. Remember, asking for your post-interview naturalization case to be reviewed doesn’t mean it will actually be approved. The USCIS can still deny your application or require it to continue and request further evidence.
If you are applying for a green card and you’re getting worried about the time delays, an immigration attorney will be able to advise whether there is anything you can do to get things moving.