Break Neck Speed: The State of Permanent Resident and Citizenship Processing
Published: July 7, 2009

Foreign nationals in the U.S. who are applying for U.S. permanent resident status (including conditional permanent resident status) aka “adjustment of status,” based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, or another type of family-based petition with current visa availability, are seeing their applications being processed efficiently and speedily. So are applicants for U.S. citizenship. Immigration interviews, at least through CIS Chicago, are being scheduled with lightning speed, and card production for approvable permanent resident applicants, and oath ceremonies for approvable U.S. citizenship applicants follow within just a week or two of the interview. In my almost 20 years of practicing immigration law, I do not recall ever seeing the logistics of these aspects of the immigration benefits system work this well.

Here is the current timeline for family based, I-485 adjustment of status applicants — assuming the paperwork and all supporting documentation is prepared and filed correctly:

  1. Dept. of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services issues receipts within approximately 5 to 10 days of filing date,
  2. Biometrics (fingerprint) appointment scheduled within approximately 10-15 days of filing date,
  3. Employment Authorization Document (and for those eligible, Advance Parole Travel Document) issued within 45 to 90 days of filing date and
  4. Interview (at least at CIS Chicago) scheduled within 90 -120 days of filing.

Please note that interviews will be scheduled for all marriage-based applications, but not necessarily for other types of family-based cases. Applicants with arrest records or other significant immigration-related irregularities will always be interviewed.

The timeline for N-400 applicants for naturalization — assuming prepared and filed correctly — is pretty much the same as for I-485 applicants, except that interviews are scheduled within 4 to 6 months of the filing date, and oath ceremonies scheduled approximately 2 to 4 weeks following the interview.

What can impact this timeline? If the application and all supporting documentation, such as the Affidavit of Support, is not prepared correctly, additional weeks or months can be added to Employment Authorization Document and/or I-485 processing times. Also, if questions surrounding the applicant’s legal eligibility for permanent residence or U.S. citizenship comes into play — especially at the time of interview — weeks, months, and even years can be added on to this processing timeline. But when the case is prepared properly, and clear legal eligibility for the immigration benefit is established, applicants can pretty much expect smooth and speedy sailing.

Dude, Where’s My Green Card?

Speaking of break neck speed, recently approved applicants for adjustment of status have had to cope with the “disappointment” of having their permanent resident cards processed in a matter of 90 days or so, versus the 2-3 week processing horizon that we have gotten used to in the past year. Last week though, CIS officials have advised that approved applicants can once again look to the 2-3 week card production window, with kinks in the production process having been ironed out.

Copyright © 2009, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois