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IMMIGRATION BACKLOGS: WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LONG FOR IMMIGRATION TO MAKE A DECISION?

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"How much longer will it take for USCIS to decide my case?", "Why is my green card renewal taking so long?", "My friend's case was submitted after mine and they already received their notice, so why am I still waiting?"  These are just some of the many questions that I and more than a few of my lawyer friends have received. Although we try to answer as best as we can, our answers are only estimates and approximations that we gather from (1) prior experience, (2) new changes in immigration policies regarding priorities, (3) stated processing times by USCIS, and (4) individual case specifics. I know that many of you who have these questions are frustrated, anxious, worried, and/or tired of the long wait, but please keep in mind that lawyers are not the adjudicators of your case; we are advocates here to assist you, not the decision maker. The decision to approve or deny your case, to request further evidence, to schedule you for an interview, etc, is up to USCIS. The officer reviewing your case file is the one making that decision, not us. Please understand that if the decision were mine, I would of course approve all of my clients! Please also understand that, as your attorney, we too wish for your case to be successfully decided as soon as possible. We hate waiting as much as you do (if not more!). 

(1) Prior Experience

Whenever I get a question regarding the time line of a case, such as "how long will this take?" or "how much longer do I have to wait?", the first thing I think about are my past cases. I think about the most recent case that was submitted that was of the same type of case (ie., a green card adjustment case, a removal of condition case, a citizenship application, an RFE, etc), and when that case was finally adjudicated or decided by USCIS. For example, last year, adjustment of status cases for clients that were applying for a green card based on their marriage, took only a few months or so. Currently, such cases are taking much, much longer. In some instances, over 9 months or more! Because the actual processing times of these cases change, so too does my answer whenever I am asked a time line question.

(2) New Changes in Immigration Policies

One reason why there are delays with USCIS decision making is simply because of the shift in immigration policy as a result of the new Trump Administration. Because the President's focus on immigration has been covered ad nauseam on the news, radio, print, and even on twitter, I won't discuss this in much further detail. Suffice to say, USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security are acting under new policies to curb illegal immigration, and to limit immigration benefits that were once accorded to individuals under the prior Obama Administration.

(3) USCIS Processing Times

I've covered case processing times in several articles in the past. In those articles, I went over step-by-step, how to check the status of your case and how to find the processing time.  (If you missed these articles, there are links on my website at WWW.JC4LAW.COM or go directly to WWW.SEREECHAI.COM and find "Law Corner with JC". 

Chart Example: As a matter of illustration for this article, I went on USCIS' online Processing Time Information website and checked the processing time for a Citizenship case.  Here's what I found:

USCIS Processing Time Information (LOS ANGELES)

Field Office Processing Dates for Los Angeles CA as of: June 30, 2017

Form

Form Name

Processing Cases As Of Date:

N-400

Application for Naturalization

November 8, 2016

Last Updated: August 10, 2017

Explanation of the Chart

For Citizenship cases (Application for Naturalization), the LA office is currently processing cases they received on November 8, 2016. Today is August 10, 2017, so that means that Citizenship cases are approximately 9 months backlogged! Based on the data on this chart, we therefore should estimate that a Naturalization case filed today will be processed 9 months from now.

(4) Case Specifics

I don't know how many times I've heard someone ask me why their case is taking so long when their friend "already received a notice even though they submitted their case after them". I've said it before and I'll say it again: No two cases are exactly the same! On the surface, you may think your case is exactly the same as this other person, but it is not. Not only do the facts of your case differ from every other person, but processing of it is totally different. From your own background information (i.e, birth date, addresses, visa type, marital history), to the timing of when you submit your case (i.e., time of the month, season of filing), to the office that the application or petition is received (i.e., Los Angeles, New York, etc), there are so many variables that are different that each plays a role in how your case is handled and how long your case will take. 

For example. I found the following result when checking the processing time of Applications for Naturalization (Citizenship) in the New York field office:

USCIS Processing Time Information (NEW YORK)

Field Office Processing Dates for New York City NY as of: June 30, 2017

Form

Form Name

Processing Cases As Of Date:

N-400

Application for Naturalization

September 10, 2016

As you can see by the chart, the New York office is currently processing cases as of September 10, 2016. The Los Angeles office is on November 8, 2016 cases. What does this tell you? Well...just based on location of filing, you already see a difference. Now factor in other details that aren't the same about two cases and you shall find more differences that undoubtedly will result in different processing timelines. So the next time you hear someone tell you, "my case should be done because so and so already received theirs", you'll know why this person is wrong. Perhaps you can tell them to go read this article! 

If you have questions or comments related to this article, or if you have some other legal issue you would like me to assist you with, please contact my office at (818) 846-5639, or my Thai direct line at (818) 505-4921. Also, if you have any questions that you would like to be answered in future articles, please email me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And if you have not done so, please be sure to visit my website at: WWW.JC4LAW.COM for general information regarding this and many other topics in Business, Property and Family Law.

Disclaimer: The information contained herein have been prepared for informational purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice unless otherwise specified. All opinions expressed are those of the author and in no way shall be associated with Sereechai Newspaper. If you have a specific question regarding your personal case, please contact the Law Offices of Joseph Chitmongran for a full consultation.