Playing the waiting game: Processing delays at USCIS

CASE example: I-751 applications. In her article entitled “Agency Delays Enact the Administration’s Immigration Agenda” Sandra Feist examines the processing delays currently plaguing one particular application: the Removal of Conditions on Permanent Residence. She begins with a brief history of how the “conditional permanent resident status” came about: “In 1986, as part of President Reagan’s comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform bill, Congress enacted the current framework for marriage-based permanent residence to require a two-year interim green card. At the two-year mark, these green card holders are required to file Petitions for Removal of Conditions on Permanent Residence with USCIS. Applicants must wait until the 90-day window before the two-year anniversary of their green card approval to file their I-751 petition before the expiration date on that card. Other than immigrant investors, this is the only instance in immigration law where a timeline for filing a petition with USCIS is specifically limited to a 90-day filing window.”

Current processing times: Currently, according to the article, I-751 Petitions proceed as follows: (i) 89 days before expiration of the applicant’s conditional permanent residency card – Applicant files Form I-751 with USCIS; (ii) 2 months later, filing fee checks are cashed and receipt notice is issued by USCIS; (iii) 2 years later, based on client experiences, Approval notice or interview notice arrives in the mail.

Processing times for other related applications. Similar delays are happening across the board. For example, a family-based Adjustment of Status application which used to take approximately 4 – 6 months is now estimated to be around 17 – 35.5 months in district offices like San Francisco, California. As well, Naturalization applications are currently estimated at 10 – 19.5 months. Further, Employment Authorization documents are now estimated at about 4 – 6 months, when it used to be 90 days.

Tips on how to best ride out the delays. Plan and create a timeline. Work with your attorney to plan out the 90-day filing window. Moreover, communicate with your attorney any planned travels to and from the United States or changes in employment where the status of your lawful permanent residence may arise. Your attorney will be able to guide you so that you have the proper documentation when traveling, as well as proper documentation to show a prospective employer.

Consult with a licensed and experienced immigration attorney before filing. Individuals must proceed with caution when filing for any application with USCIS. Just because it is easier now to file for an application does not mean that you should, without sound counsel of an experienced immigration attorney. We urge individuals to pause and take the time to consult with a licensed and experienced immigration attorney before submitting any application with USCIS.

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Atty. Lilli Berbano Baculi is an associate attorney with Chua Tinsay & Vega, A Professional Legal Corporation (CTV) – a full service law firm with offices in San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and Philippines. The information presented in this article is for general information only and is not, nor intended to be, formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship. Call or e-mail CTV for an in-person or phone consultation to discuss your particular situation and/or how their services may be retained at (619) 955-6277; (415) 495-8088; (916) 449-3923; lbaculi@ctvattys.com; www.chuatinsayvega.com.

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