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USCIS Processing Times: A Definitive Guide

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Waiting for your green card, visa, citizenship, and other immigration processes can be stressful. With all the backlogs, government interruptions, and changing policies, you should prepare for a long waiting game. The best way to help reduce that stress is to check your USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) case.

Checking USCIS processing times can help you predict how long your petition will take. This article will serve as your guide to USCIS processing times.



How to understand USCIS Processing Times?

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is an official government organization under the Department of Homeland Security that supports dozens of foreign and local offices in the US with applications originating in multiple jurisdictions.

Each office receives dozens of applications with sensitive information that directly impact processing times. USCIS offices have different waiting times, especially when you compare lesser-populated neighborhoods to large cities.

What is Processing Time?

The processing time is defined as the number of days (or months) elapsed between the date USCIS received an application or request and the date they completed them (either approved or denied).

Generally, processing times reflect how long it takes USCIS to complete applications, petitions, or requests.

The USCIS processing time depends on several factors, including

  • the number of cases they get,
  • the workload and staffing levels,
  • the duration of a benefit applicant's response to a request for additional details, and changes to operations and policies.

Checking Case Status on the Phone

To check your case status over the phone, you may contact USCIS at 1-800-375-5283. You will need your receipt number to review your case.

USCIS no longer accepts emails asking for case status as of 2018. However, setting up an account online with USCIS will let you receive updates on your cases.

If you have specific questions, speak with your immigration lawyer because they will most likely provide you with answers sooner.

Checking Case Status Online

The easiest way to check the status of your USCIS case is online through secure websites. It is nice that everything is convenient now with gov websites.

Following the steps below, you can check your status after receiving your I-797.

  1. Visit the Case Status Online Tool on USCIS's official website.
  2. Once safely connected, enter the USCIS receipt number (13 digits).
  3. Enter the digits without hyphens.
  4. Select the "Check Status" option.

What is I-797?

Your I-797 contains the USCIS receipt number and other important information about your case status. You can find your receipt number in the upper left-hand corner of your I-797.


Understanding the USCIS Receipt Number

Every letter or number in your receipt is a unique identifier you should be aware of. To illustrate the various components, let's create a fictitious receipt number, MSC-20-010-54321.

The first three letters of the number have corresponding USCIS Field Office or Service Center for your case. The following are the codes:

Code Field Office / Service Center
EAC or VSC Vermont
LIN or NSC Nebraska
SRC or TSC Texas
WAC or CSC California
NBC National Benefits Center
MSC Missouri
IOE USCIS Electronic Immigration System
YSC Potomac


The case is routed through the Missouri Service Center in our example receipt number.

The two digits following the three letters indicate the fiscal year in which USCIS opened your case. In our example, the case began in the fiscal year 2020. The fiscal year is from October 1 to September 30 of the succeeding year.

The next three digits indicate the computer workday on which USCIS opened our case during the fiscal year. USCIS opened the case on the fiscal year's 10th computer workday in this example.

Your case number is the last five digits. Our unique case number in this example is 54321.

National Benefits Center

The National Benefits Center is a field office rather than an official service processing center. However, it continues to process a large number of forms. The national benefits processing times use the same method as the service process centers.

If you filed an employment-based or family-based Form I-485, Form N-400, or Form N-600, and your assigned USCIS office is the NBC, you should check the processing times for your local field office.

You can use the Field Office Locator if you need assistance locating your local office. You should look into the new office's processing times if your case is transferred to another office.

Wait Times for Green Cards

The I-130 petition is processed on a first-come, first-served basis within each category. Make sure to set a priority date and be on this waitlist as soon as possible.

The petitioner must submit an organized Form I-130 package free of errors and inconsistencies.

After filing Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), the approval process for immediate relatives can take approximately 5 to 12 months and several years for family preference categories.

Some people may find it shorter than others. Standard processing times for an I-130 petition are also listed on the USCIS website. Remember, you can check the status of your case online using your receipt number.

Wait Times for Naturalization Applications

Your N-400 processing time can range from 8 to 12 months after filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and related forms. 

USCIS may request other information or even schedule an additional interview in some instances. If your case takes longer than usual, you can file a case inquiry.

How to Send a Case Inquiry

If you need to contact USCIS to inquire about your case, you can do so through the e-request tool.

You should only use this form if your case falls before the "Receipt date for case inquiry." Otherwise, you will only receive a generic response if you contact them while your case is still within normal processing times.

You can only use this tool if:

  • The processing of your case takes longer than usual.
  • You did not receive the notice via mail.
  • You did not receive your card in the mail.
  • You did not receive your documents by mail.

When you submit these inquiries online, you must include information such as your email address, USCIS receipt number, type of petition, and the date you filed your petition, among other things.

If you are looking for a law firm to help you with immigration services, Hacking Immigration Law, LLC. has professional and knowledgeable immigration lawyers to help you with your immigration needs.


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