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I-485 Processing Time 2023 at the NBC: Why Does USCIS Take So Long to Process My Spouse Visa Application?

In most spouse visa cases, several months go by between the initial filing/biometrics appointment and the actual interview on your way to achieving a lawful permanent resident status. Some have it at 7.5 months or so to finally become a Green Card holder. People often wonder why that is.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association issued a flyer explaining the issues that they are experiencing. In 2014, for instance, it took about five months for an average case to process. However, in 2020, the MSC processing time had increased significantly up to 9-12 months. Such delays can have a huge impact on families being separated and businesses and may even jeopardize lives. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Know the stages in filing the spouse visa application
  • Understand the tips to speed up your immigration case
  • Why get an immigration attorney

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3 Stages of Spouse Visa Application

person wearing black coat close-up photography

Let me explain what’s happening to your application:

1. Initial Processing

Before getting to know the I-485 processing time for 2023 at the National Benefits Center, we will go through what happens during the initial processing.

First, your package is received by contractors working for USCIS, with the service request date and receipt notice. They accept and review the paperwork for an initial determination as to whether the required forms and supporting documents have been filed, such as Form I 485, employment authorization or employment authorization document, and more.

These contractors work with a checklist to help them review each document carefully. The submitted filing fees are converted to ACH (automated clearing house) and deducted directly from the bank.

The applications are then forwarded to the National Benefits Center in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

2. National Benefits Center (NBC)

To understand the National Benefits Center processing times in 2023 better, let us know what the NBC is.

The NBC was created by the government agency USCIS in 2001. The USCIS has five service centers, including:

  • Nebraska Service Center
  • California Service Center
  • Texas Service Center
  • Potomac Service Center
  • Vermont Service Center

You can view the USCIS website for more information. NBC’s mission is to process applications that are to be sent to a local service center for interviews.

Each application (work authorization, travel document, spouse visa, and green card application) is assigned a case number. The NBC was originally called the Missouri Service Center, so the first three letters of the case number are always MSC. The non-citizen spouse also receives an alien identification number (A#).

NBC conducts a more thorough review of the application. If information or evidence is missing, NBC sends out a request for evidence (which we discussed in an earlier email). These are among the citizenship and immigration services that NBC provides.

 3. FBI Name Check

Before an interview is scheduled, the FBI name (or background) check is the third piece of the puzzle. After biometrics are conducted, the fingerprints are sent to the FBI to check local and national criminal databases.

The check is very thorough. Serious traffic, misdemeanor, and felony arrests and convictions are identified. This is important because all arrests and convictions will be discussed during the interview.

We generally obtain the same records BEFORE filing so that we are adequately prepared for whatever may come up. It also demonstrates why it is important that you tell us everything regarding any interaction that you have ever had with the law.


These three stages must take place before you and your spouse attends the green card interview or perhaps when completing the immigrant petition.

3 Tips to Speed Up Your Case

The spouse visa application process may take a long time. But there are ways to help speed up the processing time.

1. Submit an error-free application

The spouse visa application process can be complex, and there's a lot that you need to get right. If doing it on your own, make sure every detail you provide is correct and everything has been researched before pressing forward - mistakes cost time or money.

When you're asked to provide supporting documents, submit everything available even if the required number of paperwork is met. A little extra effort will help ensure that all of your bases are covered so there won’t be any surprises down the line.

We all know the frustration of submitting an application only to receive a Request for Evidence (RFE). It's not always easy when you're trying your best, but receiving this kind of letter can mean that there are some things in your documentation that need more proof or clarification from the USCIS office. Trial checks will help get rid of these issues before moving forward with the process.

2. File for an expedited request

You can speed up the immigration case by applying for an expedited request. However, some criteria must be met in order to qualify for this type of renewal or admission into the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

To make a request for an expedited process, you must have the following documentation that proves your eligibility:

  • A severe financial or monetary loss to an individual or company – provided that the petition for urgency is not the result of the applicant’s failure to:
    • Timely request for the benefit
    • Timely response to requests for supporting evidence
  • A non-profit organization or entity as recognized by the IRS or Internal Revenue Service whose request is to promote the social and cultural interests of the United States
  • Urgent humanitarian reasons or emergencies – Though USCIS doesn’t have an official definition of what an urgent case is, your expedited request can get approved when you can prove emergencies or critical humanitarian situations through substantive evidence. These include a dire financial situation and critical illness.
  • USCIS error - If you believe that USCIS made a mistake while processing your application, then it’s more likely to approve an expedited request. However, you must provide clear documentation showing how this happened so they can fix their error quickly and get back on track with the rest of the applicants in line waiting patiently behind them. Critical mistakes might include using the wrong entry date or incorrect dates that shorten the validity of your status.


The USCIS grants permission to file a request for expedited processing on an individual basis, and they have sole discretion in deciding whether or not your case will be approved. Someone rarely gets their request approved, and filing can only be done once you receive a receipt notice from the normal processing time filing.

There is several reasons why expedited requests may be denied. These include:

  • You filed the request outside the standard processing window.
  • Failure to submit any compelling documentation or evidence to support your request.
  • Your case is qualified for premium processing.

Make an expedited request for your case by calling the USCIS contact center. After the automated option to hear about its status, select "expedite.” Once an agent calls you, make sure to provide all of your information and explain the reasons for your request. An expedited service request number will be given to you so you can track your case. You will receive an email within 1-2 weeks asking for evidence or documentation of your situation. And after a week, you should receive a decision email from the USCIS service center.

3. Hire an immigration lawyer

Applicants who attempt to file their adjustment of status interview application to save money are likely going about it the wrong way. Filing fees can be expensive, and the immigration process isn’t always straightforward. A good immigration lawyer will understand all of your options, so there aren’t surprises when you get down from putting together paperwork with specific guidelines attached upon approval (or rejection).

Hiring a reputable immigration attorney or law firm is the best way to ensure your case gets handled quickly and efficiently. You don’t want any errors in paperwork, incomplete documents, or incorrect filings that could lead to unnecessary delays; hiring someone like us will help speed up the process.

If you have any questions, please give us a ring at (314) 325-7978.


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