Acquiring a green card that grants you status as a lawful permanent resident can be a life-changing experience, especially if it allows you to live much closer to family members and/or pursue new job opportunities. However, as anyone who has ever dealt with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) knows all too well, the process of applying for and receiving your green card can take a frustrating amount of time, even under the most optimal circumstances.
Under less optimal circumstances, delays in green card application processing may stretch out for so long that applicants may need to take action themselves to spur USCIS or an associated federal agency into action. If you are currently dealing with an unreasonable delay for a green card in Washington DC, an experienced immigration attorney could provide the help you might need to resolve this problem quickly and get the clear answers you deserve.
Which agency is in charge of processing Green Card applications?
First and foremost, you must know who you are dealing with.
When you apply for a green card in the U.S., your application will be sent to USCIS. This agency deals with all matters related to immigration status and protection from deportation. So, if you're experiencing green card delays during this process, they are the agency responsible.
How long should you wait?
The application process for a green card can be long and arduous, and delays are not uncommon. However, there is no fast rule for how long is too long when it comes to processing times.
USCIS and overseas U.S. embassies and consulates have different procedures and processing times. Thus, it is difficult to give a general timeframe. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic has led to staff reductions and office closures, which has caused delays in processing times.
- Six weeks generally is the longest you must wait for an initial receipt.
- For a decision on a green card application from USCIS, visit USCIS's Check Case Processing Times page. USCIS provides the average processing time and the receipt dates of the I-485 applications they are currently working on. If your application was filed later than these applications, USCIS considers your application to be within its normal processing time. This means they will ignore any inquiries from you. To avoid any delays in your application, stay up to date on the latest processing times.
Determining the Cause of an Unreasonable Processing Delay
The ideal course of action for resolving an unreasonable green card delay in Washington DC may vary depending on the situation.
Reason 1: Errors at USCIS
In the best-case scenario, a lengthy delay stems simply from someone within USCIS or a related agency misplacing an important piece of paperwork or letting a particular application slip out of mind.
Officers at the USCIS are often distracted by other tasks. This means that if you have a difficult case involving immigration or criminal history, it could take longer for your green card application to be processed than usual.
Contacting the USCIS directly through their Contact Center can sometimes be enough to clear up an issue like this and get the process moving at a normal pace.
Reason 2: Case prioritization
It is also worth noting that USCIS prioritizes certain green card applications over others. For example, the agency often processes family-based immigration petitions filed by U.S. citizens on behalf of their spouses much faster than petitions filed on behalf of siblings, and so on. While this prioritization has no bearing on the ultimate outcome of a petition, it can lead to irritating delays that may last for months or years.
Reason 3: Missing evidence
USCIS reviews green card applications in two places: USCIS service centers and USCIS local field offices. Normally, the service center will accept your green card application. And then send it on to the local field office for processing.
If your case is at the service center, the problem is often basic. For instance, you did not submit all required forms, sign the application form, or submit proof.
The delay in green card processing will continue until you provide all missing documents or resolve the errors. Once the problem is fixed, then the USCIS will move your case to the local field office.
Note: If you’re missing something, the service center will send you a Notice of Intent of Deny (NOID) or a Request for Evidence (RFE). Read the documents carefully and take note of the deadlines. Avoid waiting until the last minute. Instead, you have to respond immediately to get a quick response.
On the other hand, if your case is at the USCIS local field office, your application will be assigned to an officer. That assigned personnel might interview you to review your green card application more closely. He will decide if you need to provide additional documents, such as tax returns, criminal records, and proof of family relationship.
Other Possible Reasons
In other cases, delays may stem from problems at the National Visa Center, issues with the background check, an abnormal increase in the number of applications submitted during a particular period, and a host of other causes.
- Sometimes the past of green card applicants gets caught up in the cracks of security, and USCIS does lengthy background checks. These can take months, even years, if there are ties to terrorism-related cases or if the officer suspects marriage fraud.
- USCIS will also look into your prior interactions with CBP or an immigration judge before issuing a green card. If they find any patterns of negative behavior that might affect future applications for citizenship, it may delay processing until those issues have been resolved.
- If you move to another city or state, your green card case will be moved to another field office. Most files are not stored digitally. It can take time for them all to go through the mail system once they're sent out from their original location. When this happens, expect processing delays in your green card application.
Guidance from seasoned legal counsel can be crucial to identifying what is behind an unreasonable delay for a green card application, and subsequently to remedying that delay in a timely fashion.
Resolving Unreasonable Green Card Delays
In many cases, a delayed application can be easily resolved by contacting the agency that has the application. Often, the agency will be able to tell you what the problem is and how to fix it. They might even be able to expedite the application process.
If you are unsure how to contact the agency, you can always seek help from an immigration law firm. They can provide you with all the details you need. Remember, in most cases, a delayed application is not a lost cause. With a little effort, you will be able to get your application back on track.
In extreme situations, though, you may file a petition with a federal court seeking a writ of mandamus or to file suit under 8 U.S. Code $ 1447(b). This section of federal law requires federal agencies to perform their duties reasonably.
How a “Writ of Mandamus” Could Help
If direct inquiries with USCIS, in-person appointments, and other measures fail to overcome an unreasonable delay for a Washington DC green card application, it may be appropriate to take formal legal action as a last resort. Specifically, a qualified lawyer could help an applicant file a “writ of mandamus” lawsuit.
This is essentially a request for a federal court to compel an agent of the federal government to perform their assigned duties in a reasonable amount of time, in accordance with the requirement outlined in 28 U.S.C. §1361. The court will consider the application and decide whether to grant the writ or order the agency to take action. Once the court finds that the agency has unreasonably delayed its duties, it may order the agency to take action within a certain timeframe.
It is important to remember that a successful “writ of mandamus” does not guarantee a favorable resolution to a green card application, only a reasonably prompt one.
Talk to a Washington, DC Attorney About Addressing an Unreasonable Green Card Delay
It can be difficult to decide what response to a lengthy USCIS processing delay is best for your particular situation. You may have other professional and personal obligations to focus on, and going back and forth with officials may seem like an understandably exhausting endeavor.
Fortunately, help is available at Hacking Immigration Law, LLC. Our team could work tirelessly and tenaciously to help you. Call today to discuss options for solving unreasonable delays for green cards in Washington DC.