USCIS Working to Improve Processing Time for USC Immediate Relative Cases04 Dec 2013
In response to complaints from stakeholders, a recent statement from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicates efforts to significantly reduce the processing time for form I-130 relative petitions filed by U.S. citizens on behalf of immediate relatives. The USCIS notes that processing times have improved in recent weeks, but acknowledges that more must be done to meet the goal of processing these cases within five months.
U.S. immigration law has family unity as a key policy objective. One very important and privileged category is that of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (USCs). Immediate relatives are defined for purposes of family-based petitions as spouses, parents, and children (single and under 21 years of age) of adult USCs. When a USC files an I-130 on behalf of an immediate relative, the foreign national relative is not subject to the limitations on the number of individuals who can be granted permanent resident status each year. In short, the system is supposed to allow these immediate relatives to become permanent residents with a limited amount of waiting and processing time.
In practice, while the process is almost universally more favorable for immediate relatives than for preference relatives, even immediate relatives have seen a slow-down in I-130 processing. This can be a source of stress and annoyance for foreign nationals who are processing from within the United States (i.e. filing I-485 applications to adjust status), but it is even more serious an issue for those whose relatives are processing from abroad. Such delays can lead to lengthy separations between USCs and their immediate family members awaiting consular processing outside the United States.
Cases Still Backlogged, but USCIS is Making Progress
A written statement was issued on November 20, 2013 reaffirming the USCIS’s goal of an average processing time of five months for cases filed by USCs on behalf of immediate relatives. The USCIS acknowledges that it has not been meeting this goal, but points out that, over the past month alone, processing times have been reduced from an average of more than one year, to approximately nine months on average. (i.e. As of October 25th, the USCIS was working on cases filed as recently as February 12, 2013.) The USCIS expects to continue reducing the processing time for these cases through May 2014, at which point the five-month processing time average should be reached.
Even After USCIS Processing, Wait Continues for Many
If a case has been filed for consular processing, an approval issued by the USCIS does not mean that a beneficiary’s immigrant visa will be granted immediately. Rather, the next step is for the USCIS to transfer the case to the U.S. Department of State (DOS) National Visa Center (NVC) for additional processing, which, in turn, will transfer the case to the appropriate U.S. consulate charged with interviewing the beneficiary and making the final decision on the immigrant visa issuance. This process can take several months or longer, in addition to the USCIS processing time.
Many mistakenly believe that when a USC sponsors an immediate relative, the process can be completed in a matter of days or weeks. It is not uncommon for an immigration attorney to be contacted by a USC who has plans of going abroad to marry a foreign national, and expects to return with the new spouse shortly after the wedding. While it is encouraging to learn that the USCIS is working to return these cases to the five-month processing time goals, applicants must be realistic. Family members must engage in planning, as waiting will remain an important aspect of these filings for the foreseeable future. Those with questions about how best to proceed with such cases are welcome to contact the Murthy Law Firm.
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