Published September 11, 2018
For foreign nationals in the U.S., two of the most common applications filed with Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services are the I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status (to acquire lawful permanent resident/green card status) and N-400 Application for Naturalization (to acquire U.S. citizenship). Processing times for both applications these days – from day of filing to interview – ranges from 8-12 months, give or take. But what happens if your case is pending longer than that? What measures can be taken to follow up and ensure your case is being decided in a reasonable period of time? Any of the following can prove useful, although not necessarily in any particular order, expect for the litigation route, which generally should be one’s last resort. Further, other than litigation, the options listed below come at no financial cost whatsoever.
Call the US CIS Customer Service Telephone line: 1-800-375-5283. The name sounds great, but the results vary and are inconsistent. Usually a DHS/CIS representative in an unknown location receives the call, takes information and ends up advising the caller to just wait a little more time and that a decision is soon forthcoming. If the application is deemed to be pending “beyond currently listed processing times”, the representative may elevate the call to an officer at one of the CIS service centers, who in turn will take further information and initiate a “service request”. A “service request” gives the caller the impression that some special level of attention is being given to the matter, although there is at least a 50% chance the effort will have no impact on processing whatsoever. Of course, there is no cost or harm in giving this avenue a try, other than having to endure a lengthy phone call with a customer service representative who might show only a faint interest in having your problem resolved.
Congressional Inquiry: Contacting a constituent representative from your local U.S. Congressman or U.S. Senator’s office is often useful, especially if you first tried to resolve the issue by way of a “service request” as described above. Finding contact information for your U.S. Representative or Senator is as easy as googling: “find my U.S. Congressman” or “find my U.S. Senator”. Once you complete a privacy release form, the office’s constituent representative will reach out on your behalf to the DHS/CIS office in question, submit a formal inquiry, and report back to you on case status. While not always having the desired impact, such an avenue of inquiry tends to give an applicant hope in that the constituent representative usually displays a level of care of your case both in the way they communicate to the applicant as well as to the DHS/CIS office in question.
INFOPASS appointment: Book an appointment to meet with a DHS/CIS information officer at your local immigration office. By visiting https://my.uscis.gov/appointment , an applicant can arrange to meet with an immigration officer on a set date and time at their nearest DHS/CIS office and inquire about case status and ask questions about future processing steps and timelines. Sometimes, but not usually, an applicant’s INFOPASS appointment visit will have a positive impact, such as quicker processing.
DHS/CIS Ombudsman Office: Within the DHS/CIS agency there is an office dedicated to case follow up or resolution, especially on long delayed cases. An inquiry with the Ombudsman’s office is generally another next step to take after conventional efforts at resolution, such as a “service request” have failed. An inquiry with the ombudsmen’s office can be initiated by visiting https://www.dhs.gov/case-assistance
Litigation: When your I-485 or N-400 has been pending way beyond “normal processing times” and there is no bona fide legal or factual basis to justify such a delay (such as a marriage fraud investigation or inquiry into a complicated legal issue), a lawsuit against the government in federal court (i.e. a complaint for Mandamus, or pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1447(b)) to compel issuance of a decision, may be in order. The filing of such a lawsuit may indeed be necessary to get a case unstuck, but proceeding with a federal court action is only recommended when the legal and factual foundation for the application is clear and solid.
PUBLISHED September 11, 2018– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2018, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois