Every immigration application takes a different amount of time. Exactly how long yours will take depends on a variety of factors like where the person applying is from, their relationship with their sponsor, the immigration status of their sponsor, the field office, embassy, or consulate processing their case, how complicated their case is, and how quickly they reply to government notices.
If you're like most immigrants, you want a better answer to the question of how long your application will take than "it depends." You also want to know what to do if things seem to be taking too long. This page contains everything you need to know to understand immigration application processing times and what you should do when your application takes longer than it seems like it should.
The processing time estimates listed below are from the online USCIS and State Department databases and are current as of 10/7/2020. We do our best to keep these estimates updated, but be sure to double-check with the relevant government agency for current numbers.
The best way to get your application approved quickly is to submit it correctly the first time. We can help you prepare, file, and track your application for free. Click the green button above or read on to learn more.
When you submit an immigration application, one of five U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) service centers will likely process your immigration application. How long this takes will depend on your type of immigration application, your unique personal background, the service center processing your request, and the amount of application backlog at the service center. Here’s how long it should take the government to process forms for the services that we offer once they receive them.
In addition to the USCIS Service Centers listed above, a host of USCIS field offices around the country also process Form I-485. You can check out the processing times estimates for the USCIS field office nearest to you using the USCIS tool.
Form N-400 is processed by USCIS field offices all over the country instead of at the five USCIS service centers. We have included the estimated processing times for the field offices in the five largest U.S. cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and Phoenix. You can view the field office-specific processing times using USCIS’s case processing time tool.
The National Visa Center processes immigration applications as they receive them from USCIS or directly from applicants. They post their current processing times on their website, and update these estimates on a regular basis. As of today, October 7, 2020, they are processing applications received on September 29, 2020 and earlier.
To learn more about your application process and how long each step should take, check out these articles:
To check your immigration application status, you first have to figure out where your application is. Generally, if you submitted your application from inside the U.S., it will be processed by USCIS. If you submitted your application from outside the U.S. by consular processing, it will be processed initially by USCIS, forwarded later to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) and then forwarded to the U.S.embassy or consulate closest to you.
You can check your application's status by entering your application receipt number in USCIS's online case status tool. You can also check your application status by calling the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. When you call, they will ask you for your receipt number and provide you with the latest application details. Your receipt number is a 13-character code made up of three letters followed by ten numbers. It is located at the top left corner of the receipt notice that USCIS sent you after submitting your application.
You can check your application's status by entering your immigrant visa case number in the State Department’s online visa status checker tool. You can also call the NVC at (603) 334-0700 to check your application status. When NVC receives your approved case from USCIS, they assign an immigrant visa case number to it. The case number has 14 characters; three letters at the beginning with 11 numbers following. You can find your case number listed on the welcome letter that the NVC sent you. You should have your immigrant visa case number on hand when you call the NVC so that they can provide you with the latest details on your application.
When the NVC forwards your application to a U.S. embassy or consulate, it will be to the one closest to the address you listed on your visa application. You can find contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate handling your case on the U.S. embassy website and reach out for more information on your application.
The best way to find out where your application is is to understand the application process. The detailed filing guides below will help you figure out where your application might be so that you can figure out which government agency you should contact first. Once you figure out where your application is, you can follow the steps in the next section.
There can be a lot of waiting involved in the process to immigrate to the U.S. - some of it is expected, and some of it could also be a sign that something is wrong. Maybe USCIS never received your application, or USCIS received your application and then lost it, or the U.S. embassy or consulate processing your application never received your application from USCIS. There are a number of explanations for what might have happened.
In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has caused backlogs in many USCIS offices and lengthened wait times even more within the immigration system. Under the Trump administration, new immigration law enforcement, like the public charge rule, has also contributed to longer wait times. You can check out the most recent application processing times for the different USCIS field offices on the USCIS website. If your U.S. visa application falls outside of these time estimates, then there may be a reason for concern.
One telltale sign of a problem with your application processing is if you never received a receipt notice from USCIS, even several months after submitting your application. The receipt notice confirms that USCIS has received your application, and USCIS will usually send it 2 to 3 weeks after you submit your application.
You may not have received a receipt notice for many reasons. It could be that the courier or postal service you used never delivered your application packet to USCIS (you can check this using the tracking number you received at shipping), or you changed addresses recently without updating USCIS, and USCIS sent your receipt notice to the address you listed on file. You may have even entered the wrong address on your application.
If any of these apply to you, you should contact the USCIS service center or field office where you submitted for guidance as soon as possible.
USCIS will likely ask you to resubmit your application if it is lost or if your request has expired and they considered it abandoned. In any of these instances, the scanned copy of your application packet that you kept in your records will come in handy.
If you have been tracking your case status and have reason to believe that your application processing time is abnormally slow, here are some steps that you can take:
If you filed your application from inside the United States, either concurrently or non-concurrently, you should first track the status of your application using the receipt number on the receipt notice that USCIS sent you. When you enter your receipt notice into the USCIS online case status tracker, you will be able to retrieve the case status for your visa application.
If you didn’t get a receipt notice from USCIS more than three weeks after submitting your visa application, or if you have some other reason to believe that your application is taking longer than expected to process here are a few options to consider:
If you determine that your application was never delivered to USCIS by the postal service or courier service you used for some reason, you should resubmit your application as soon as possible. You should keep a scanned copy of any documents you submit to USCIS for your records, just in case of an unfortunate situation like this one. Remember to update any relevant information since you first applied, including things such as a change of address, etc. Don’t forget to include the required filing fee as well!
If you have a case pending with USCIS outside normal processing times, you can submit a case inquiry to USCIS on their website. You will need to have your receipt number, A-number, date when you filed your application, the type of application you filed, or your email address on hand.
You can file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the relevant governmental institution using the form on the FOIA website. In this case, you would be making the request to USCIS. You can do this if you have tried to get an update on the status of your application by contacting USCIS directly but were not successful. The length of time it takes USCIS to respond to your FOIA request will depend on how complicated your case is and the backlog at the USCIS service center or field office.
It may also be useful to have an experienced immigration lawyer look into the delay on your behalf. You can access expert immigration lawyers for free or at a low cost on the USA.gov website. A good lawyer will be able to walk you through what may be behind the delay in processing your application.
If you filed your application from outside the United States by consular processing, you should first track your application's status with USCIS, and then with the State Department. When you enter your receipt notice into the USCIS online case status tracker or enter your immigrant visa case number into the State Department’s online visa status checker tool, you will be able to retrieve the case status for your visa application.
If you never got a receipt notice from USCIS or a case number from the State Department, or if you have reason to believe that your application is taking longer than expected to process here are a few options to consider:
There are certain cases where you might want to resubmit your application. For example, you should consider resubmitting if:
In cases like these, you should resubmit your application as soon as possible. Be sure to always keep a scanned copy of any documents you submit to USCIS so that you can easily refile If you need to. Remember to update any relevant information on your forms that has changed since you first filed. The most common things that need to be updated are your signature dates, addresses, and employment information. Don’t forget to include the required filing fee when you refile as well! In most cases USCIS will not process your original payment if they lose or don’t receive your application, so you shouldn’t end up double-paying.
Depending on the processing stage that your application is in, it may be with a USCIS service center or field office, the National Visa Center, or the U.S. embassy or consulate assigned to your case. You should usually contact the most recent government office that has provided an update to your application. You can contact the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 and give the NVC a call at (603) 334-0700. You can also retrieve the U.S. embassy or consulate handling your case's contact information on the U.S. embassy website.
If you have a case pending with USCIS outside the average processing time window, you can submit a case inquiry to USCIS on their website. You will need to have your receipt number, A-number, date when you filed your application, the type of application you filed, or your email address on hand.
If you have a case pending with the NVC outside the average processing time window, you can ask for a case update using the Ask NVC tool. You will need to enter your NVC case number or USCIS receipt number on the portal to submit your inquiry.
You can file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the relevant governmental agency using the form on the FOIA website. In this case, you would be submitting the request to either USCIS or the National Visa Center. You should submit the FOIA request when you’ve tried unsuccessfully to get an update on your application from USCIS or the NVC. The length of time for USCIS or NVC to respond to your FOIA request will depend on how complicated your case is and the backlog at the USCIS service center or field office.
It may also be useful to have a qualified immigration lawyer look into the delay on your behalf. You can access expert immigration lawyers for free or at a low cost on the USA.gov website to walk you through what may be behind the delay in processing your application.
We can help you file your immigration application correctly the first time to avoid the hassle of tracking down a delayed application.
We hope that you found this guide to how long your application should take, and what to do if it takes too long, useful. If you have any questions about application processing times or want to share your experience, we'd love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below, and we will reply ASAP!