Anyone who has worked in the field of U.S. immigration soon realizes that one of the biggest concerns of immigrants is how long it takes to get their immigration applications approved by the government. Indeed, even simple applications such as renewing a permanent resident card or applying for a new passport can involve substantial delays. It therefore may be helpful to consider a checklist of suggestions for how you can speed up the processing of your immigrant application. And it may be helpful to consider what changes the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could make to improve performance in this area.
Let’s consider both.
22 Suggestions To Speed Up Your Application
Here are 22 suggestions for speeding up your U.S. immigration application processing:
- Follow Guidelines Precisely: Adhere to specific application instructions from USCIS to prevent errors and setbacks.
- Submit a Complete Application: Ensure all necessary documentation is included to avoid delays due to clarification needs.
- Be Thorough and Complete: Create a well-prepared, accurate application with all required documents.
- Follow Instructions Carefully: Read and follow USCIS instructions closely to prevent errors or omissions.
- Avoid Mistakes: Double-check forms, documents, and fees to prevent inaccuracies before submitting the application.
- Submit Early: Apply well in advance of deadlines or needed dates to account for unexpected delays, especially for time-sensitive situations.
- Use Couriers: Employ courier services for physical document submissions.
- Stay Informed About Processing Times: Regularly check the USCIS website for the application category’s estimated processing duration.
- Stay Informed: Keep updated on immigration policies, rules, and procedures that might affect your application.
- Priority Filing: Research if your application qualifies for priority processing and meets eligibility. Also, review USCIS criteria for expedited processing due to emergencies or humanitarian reasons.
- Consider Premium Processing: Explore paying extra for premium processing (15 days) in some visa categories.
- Submit Electronic Applications: Opt for online submission for faster processing where available.
- Consular Processing: Apply for a U.S. visa at a consulate in your home country, if applicable, for potential faster processing.
- Avoid RFEs: Include all required documents initially to reduce the chances of a “Request for Evidence” and delays.
- Provide Certified Translations: Include certified translations for non-English documents to avoid verification delays.
- Follow Up: Inquire about application status if there has been no communication for a prolonged period.
- Track Your Application: Use available USCIS tracking tools to monitor progress.
- Be Flexible with Appointments: Flexibility with interview and biometric appointments can lead to earlier slots.
- Utilize Infopass Appointments: Schedule in-person appointments via Infopass for personalized assistance.
- Network with Other Applicants: Gain insights from online forums to estimate processing times and get other tips.
- Communicate Clearly: If communicating with USCIS, ensure clarity, use proper channels, and reference the application number.
- Employ an Immigration Attorney: Consider hiring an experienced attorney to prepare and guide your application.
As for what can be done to improve USCIS performance, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) recently submitted a letter addressed to Ur Jaddou, the Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), putting forward a comprehensive set of recommendations aimed at improving processing times in the immigration process.
The following recommendations were made in the letter:
1. Addressing the 80th Percentile Processing Time: AILA raised concerns about the current practice of using the 80th percentile processing time as a metric. This approach, while attempting to convey processing delays, was criticized for failing to provide a clear representation of the overall spread of processing times, hindering users’ ability to estimate when their requests might be processed.
2. Alternative Metrics Proposed: AILA suggested reporting both the 50th percentile (median) processing time alongside the 80th percentile, offering a more balanced perspective on the range of processing times. Indeed, AILA advocated for providing the 25th and 75th percentile processing times, a more comprehensive approach that would offer insight into shorter and longer processing durations, improving the accuracy of estimates.
3. Reassessing “Cycle Times” Calculation: AILA underscored concerns about the use of “cycle times” to calculate processing times for specific form types, which may lead to unreliable and unrealistic processing time data. The organization suggested that this method should be reevaluated in favor of more accurate and transparent reporting.
4. Service Request Placement Threshold: AILA addressed confusion surrounding what threshold was required for placing service requests, emphasizing that USCIS currently allows service requests only for cases exceeding such a threshold. The association suggests implementing a 75th percentile processing time, offering a clearer indication for users on when to place service requests.
5. Discrepancies in Processing Time Data: AILA pointed out discrepancies between the processing time data published on the USCIS website and the data used by the USCIS Contact Center for service request determinations. The inconsistencies between different communication platforms contribute to confusion and uncertainty for stakeholders.
6. Case Volume-Based Calculation: AILA applauded USCIS’s effort to offer more personalized processing times through tools like myProgress but urges greater transparency by allowing attorneys to access this information as well. The association also encouraged the consideration of case volume data to enhance the accuracy of processing time estimates.
7. Collaborative Engagement: AILA extended an invitation to USCIS to work collaboratively on these proposed enhancements, aiming to streamline processing time metrics and improve transparency, ultimately benefiting both immigrants and the government.
These suggestions, if implemented, could pave the way for a more transparent, efficient, and user-friendly immigration process, catering to the needs of immigrants, attorneys, and the general public alike.
Plain Common Sense
But when all is said and done, sometimes it’s just best to try using some plain common sense. One can ask how does FedEx, for example, track every single package in its system and know exactly where it is at any given moment and tell you when it will be delivered when the USCIS call center has trouble doing the same with your immigration application? How does Amazon deal with millions of packages daily, packaging them and getting them out to us within days but the USCIS takes months to issue employment authorizations? Why can’t Washington adopt the philosophy of The Toyota Way to streamline its operations?
It would be helpful for applicants to use the checklist to improve their processing and for Washington leaders to consider the AILA recommendations as well as to consult with experts from organizations like FedEx, Amazon and Toyota to get their job done better. That could really make things better for everyone concerned.