By Kaitlyn Garcia, J.D. | Immigration Attorney | Houston, Texas
USCIS provides processing time information for every service center, field office, and other offices processing petitions and applications for immigration benefits. Visit USCIS' website for links to their current processing time charts according to dates. However this chart (or any other USCIS case status information) might not be very useful if your case is falling outside normal processing times and premium processing is not available. So what are your options after you have referenced this chart, submitted online and phone case status requests, and waited patiently for far too long?
There are four options that I will share with you that may get your case processed faster and decided on:
Option 1 - Contact your Congressperson
You can contact your congressman and request help with with a federal agency. Based on your address where you live/work (typically your zip code) you can look up who your congressperson is and submit a form expressing your situation. Here is an example. Chloe lives in Jacksonville, Florida. Her case has been pending with USCIS for over a year and is well outside normal processing times. She has submitted two service requests and have not received a response from the service center. To get help from her congressperson, she would first visit www.house.gov and search for her congressperson using the U.S. House of Representatives "Find Your Representative" tool. She would enter her zip code and find that her representatives are John H. Rutherford and Al Lawson Jr. The next step for Chloe is to visit the representatives' webpages and fill out the Agency Help form to get help on her case from the congressperson. With a little searching and web navigation, you may be one step closer to getting the help you need to get your case processed faster.
Option 2 - AILA Liaison Request
You or your attorney can submit a liaison request from the American Immigration Lawyer's Association (AILA).
Option 3 - Request Emergency Processing
USCIS may take your case out of normal processing and process it ahead of other cases if there is a genuine emergency. You may request expedited handling of your case if you can demonstrate that you are or will be subject to the following emergencies.
- Severe financial loss to a company or individual;
- A personal emergency situation;
- A humanitarian situation;
- Your application was submitted by a nonprofit organization in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the U.S.;
- USCIS made an error in processing your application; or
- Your application represents some other compelling interest of the U.S. government.
USCIS offers instructions on how to request Emergency Processing on their website.
Option 4 - Mandamus
If you have explored all options and your case has been pending for several years you could consider filing a mandamus with the appropriate court. A mandamus, in the immigration realm, is a judicial writ of order that is issued from a court of superior jurisdiction over USCIS ordering USCIS to perform an act (processing your case!) of which is required by law as an obligation. Although courts agree that they cannot tell USCIS to deny or approve an application, they can certainly order USCIS to speed up the process and make a decision (either way). Please be aware that a mandamus is a lawsuit against USCIS ordering them to act. Because a mandamus is a lawsuit, you should consult with a qualified immigration attorney to file the mandamus to get the best results.
There is no guarantee that the above tactics will help expedite the processing of your case, however they certainly give you a good place to start.