During the immigration application process, your situation may suddenly change in a way that makes you need to hear back from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on your case quickly. If this happens, you may be able to submit a USCIS case expedite request to receive a quicker application decision. There is no fee to make a request. USCIS requires you to meet specific criteria, like extreme humanitarian need or potential harm to a U.S person or company if your application isn’t sped up, in order for them to approve your request. This article explains the situations where you can ask USCIS to expedite your case and provides step-by-step instructions for making an expedited request.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Updated December 7, 2022
What Is Expedited Case Processing?
USCIS handles most immigration benefit requests. Your application's processing time varies depending on your application type and the workload at the USCIS office that is responsible for the adjudication (decision to deny or grant) of your case. The COVID-19 pandemic has made USCIS’ standard case processing times longer.
Expedited case processing is when USCIS gives you a decision on your application sooner than its normal processing time. Expedited processing is especially helpful when you face emergency situations and sudden changes in your personal life and need to hear from USCIS on your case sooner rather than later.
Check out our article on immigration processing timelines to learn more about how long it takes USCIS to process your application type.
When Can I Expedite My Case With USCIS?
USCIS decides on expedite requests on a case-by-case basis. Every applicant is welcome to submit a case expedite request to USCIS. However, there are specific criteria that USCIS relies on to decide whether an expedite request is appropriate for the applicant’s situation. You must submit supporting documentation to prove that your case falls under one of the following criteria for expedited processing according to USCIS policy:
Clear USCIS Error
Sometimes USCIS makes a mistake on your immigration application while processing it. If a USCIS mistake causes you to lose time in status — and you can prove it — USCIS will be more likely to approve your request.
Critical mistakes include things like using incorrect dates that cut short the validity period for your status. For example, if USCIS sends you a green card that expires in eight years instead of the standard 10, the shortened time is an error you can raise. As long as you can submit proof that USCIS made the error and not the petitioner or applicant, USCIS will likely approve your expedited processing request.
Urgent Humanitarian Reasons
You can request expedited processing if there are urgent humanitarian reasons motivating you to. USCIS does not have an official definition for what they consider to be urgent cases. Still, if you can prove that you're experiencing something that could pass as a critical humanitarian situation, USCIS may approve your expedited request. Examples include, but are not limited to, an outbreak of war in your home country or a sudden grave illness that requires you to be in the U.S.
Severe Financial Loss to a Person or Company
USCIS may expedite processing on your case if you can prove that a person or company will suffer severe financial loss if USCIS does not give you a decision on your case sooner rather than later. Here’s an example of the sort of situation where USCIS might expedite your case:
Imagine that you are joining a nonprofit organization that needs to have you on its board to secure funding with a grant application. That grant application will expire before you hear back from USCIS. The organization will not receive the grant without you on its team, and if it doesn’t receive the grant, the nonprofit will be in serious financial trouble. In this sort of case, expediting your case will prevent harming a U.S. company, so USCIS is likely to allow you to expedite.
You will need to prove that you filed your case on time and submitted additional evidence for any Requests for Evidence (RFEs) that USCIS may have issued on your case in a timely manner. Then, USCIS will evaluate the supporting documents that you submitted to show the potential loss to the company or person and conclude whether there will be a severe financial loss to you or a company you’re affiliated with if they don't give you a decision update as soon as possible.
Compelling U.S. Government Interests
If your application impacts U.S. national interests, government interests, or public safety in some way, then USCIS may be very likely to approve your case expedite request. In this situation, you do not make an expedite request yourself. The U.S. government agency or entity that is concerned will make the expedite processing request on your behalf. The government entity may be the United States Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security(DHS), or another. The U.S. government must prove that a delay in processing your application is detrimental to a national interest situation or threatens national security interests in some way or another.
When CAN’T I Expedite My Case With USCIS?
Certain application scenarios do not qualify for a USCIS case expedite request. You cannot expedite your case with USCIS if you have already requested premium processing, a USCIS expedited processing service that is available for some employment-based applications (specifically Form I-129 and Form I-140). If your application type is eligible for premium processing, you must request that instead of expedited processing. Application types eligible for premium processing include:
If you request expedited processing for a case outside of the processing timeframe because of an error you made (USCIS calls this an “applicant’s failure”), USCIS will not approve your expedite request. You also can’t expedite processing for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) application just so that you can begin working sooner. In all cases, you must prove one of the needs listed in the previous section of this article in order for USCIS to approve your expedite request.
USCIS Processing Times
USCIS provides processing time estimates for all application types that they handle. If your case is still outside of USCIS's normal processing window, you cannot request expedited processing for it yet. If you still need help and your case is inside the normal processing timeline, what you can do instead is submit a USCIS service request to get an update on your application status. You can also set up an Infopass appointment to speak with a USCIS representative. They won’t necessarily be able to speed up your application’s processing, but it doesn’t hurt to try. And getting a clear update on the status of your case may make it easier for you to plan your next moves.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Expediting Your Case With USCIS
Once you have confirmed that you have a qualifying reason for submitting an expedited processing request for your case, it is time to submit the request. Here's how:
Step 1: Get Your Receipt Notice
You cannot submit a USCIS case expedite request without your receipt notice. When you reach out to USCIS, they will ask you to provide information like your receipt number from your receipt notice to be able to make your request. You should have received your receipt notice in the mail about two weeks after you filed your petition.
Step 2: Call USCIS
When you have located your receipt notice and have it in hand, you are now ready to call USCIS. You can reach the USCIS contact center by calling 1-800-375-5283 (1-800-767-1833 for TTY). The call operator will forward you to the USCIS service center handling your case.
Step 3: Speak to Tier 1 or Tier 2 Officer
You will usually have to wait on the phone for some time to speak with a USCIS representative at the service center handling your case. You should speak with a Tier 1 or Tier 2 USCIS officer. When you connect with a customer service representative, they will usually transfer you to a Tier 1 or Tier 2 officer once you explain that you want to make a case expedite request and provide your reason for wanting to do so.
Step 4: Make Your Request and Get an Expedite Service Request Number
The USCIS officer you speak with will ask you to provide your email address, receipt number, and other identifying information so they can place the request on your behalf. When they place the expedite request, they will give you an expedite service request number. You should write this down in a place where you can easily find it.
Step 5: Track Expedite Request
You can track your expedite request using the expedite service request number that the USCIS officer gave you and your receipt number. You will be able to track your case expedite request at USCIS.gov. When you track your case on the USCIS website,you can also create a USCIS online account. Your tracking information will save to your USCIS account,making it easier for you to view updates to your expedite request.
Step 6: Get an Email To Submit Request Documentation
Soon after you place your case expedite request, you will receive an email from USCIS asking you to submit supporting documentation for your expedite request. The supporting documents you have to submit will depend on the reason for your expedite request.
Step 7: Submit Supporting Documentation
You must respond to the email request with the supporting documentation that USCIS asked for based on the reasons for your request. Your supporting documents must be combined into one PDF file and should not be more than 15 pages long. You can only send one email in response to the request, so make sure you have included all the supporting documents you want to include before hitting send. The sooner you send your supporting documents, the sooner you can hear back on your request.
Step 8: Receive a Decision on Your Expedite Request
After you send in your supporting documents, it should generally take less than a week to receive a decision on your expedite request. USCIS will email their final decision on your request to the email that you provided on your original application. If you did not provide an email address on your application, then they will send their decision to the email address that you used to make your expedite request.
Step 9: Receive Decision on Petition or Application
If USCIS approves your request for expedited processing, you should be able to see USCIS's final decision on your application in about a week's time. You can check the status of your case using the USCIS online tracking tool.
Are There Other Ways To Make a USCIS Expedite Request?
If you would prefer to have a bit of backup for your USCIS expedite request, there are two ways to get it. You can contact your member of Congress or the USCIS Ombudsman.
How To Make a USCIS Expedite Request With Your Members of Congress
You can also submit an expedited processing request through a member of Congress. The first step is to look up the contact information for the congressperson in your area. Then you should either call or email them to explain your situation. In some cases, you must fill a form on your local congressperson's website and wait for their office to contact you.
Depending on your reason for requesting expedited processing, you will probably need to include supporting documents to help prove why you need a quicker decision when you submit your expedited request to your local Congressional office. The final decision to expedite your application's processing will be up to USCIS and not your congressperson. A Congressional Liaison Specialist from USCIS will send any updates on your expedite request to your local member of Congress, who will then let you know what is going on.
How To Make a USCIS Expedited Request With an Ombudsman
The USCIS Ombudsman's office is a government agency that exists to help improve USCIS’s processes and to assist with individual cases that seem to get lost in the application process. If you can’t get any traction with USCIS or your congressperson, the Ombudsman’s office is another option to help you expedite your case. You can only use this option only if you have already tried and failed to get help from USCIS. First, try reaching USCIS a few times to ask them to expedite your case.
If USCIS can’t help you, or if they deny your request and you believe that you have a valid reason for asking them to expedite your case, then you can defer to the Ombudsman's office to submit a new expedite request. When you make this request, you will probably need to provide the Ombudsman with all the supporting documents that you sent to USCIS to expedite your application. The Ombudsman may also request additional supporting documents. Make sure that you give them everything they need so that they can help you!
How Long Does It Take USCIS To Respond to an Expedite Request?
There is no set timeline for processing expedite requests. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to hear back on your expedite request. Usually, though, you will hear back on an expedite request in about 10 days. If USCIS approves your expedite request, you will probably receive a decision on your application one to two weeks later. You should regularly check your USCIS case status after requesting expedited processing to see if USCIS has decided on your application.
Can I Appeal a USCIS Case Expedite Request?
Yes. If USCIS denies your USCIS case expedite requests, you can submit an appeal of the denial. Appeals on case expedite requests can take a long time to process, so keep timing in mind when making an appeal. The USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) processes appeals on expedite request denials. You can learn more about the appeal process on the AAO website.
Can I Submit a USCIS Case Expedite Request More Than Once?
Yes, you can. There is no limit to the number of times you can submit an expedited processing request to USCIS for your application. For example, you may have begun by submitting USCIS case expedite requests directly to USCIS, received no response, and then tried to submit through the Ombudsman or your Congressperson. You may also want to resubmit to USCIS directly if your circumstances change.
If USCIS found your circumstance was not urgent enough to expedite processing the first time, and your situation becomes urgent in a way that aligns with USCIS’ criteria, you can submit another request for expedited processing. There is no guarantee that USCIS will approve your expedite request this time around, but it doesn't hurt to try if your circumstances have changed.