What is taking so long?
Recently, many clients and people online have noticed and questioned how long USCIS has taken on their cases. Delays have been noted concerning the length of time taken to receive notification that USCIS received their application/petition and/or an inability to get biometrics scheduled. Such delays can lead to thoughts of something being wrong or being singled out, however, the delays are not personal, but instead are systematic.
These systematic delays can be attributed to COVID-19 restrictions on the number of personnel in the building, thus limiting the number of people available to open mail and enter the contents in the computer system, officially acknowledging the receipt of the application/petition and generating the official notice. In addition to the ongoing restrictions on personnel, USCIS has experienced an increase in the number of applications/petitions filed. Some of the increased filing numbers may be attributed to the need to file applications/petitions before policy changes take effect and some may be due to regular ebbs and flow in claims.
In addition to the delays from within USCIS, we have also seen delays from the U.S. postal service (USPS). USPS has acknowledged delays due to staffing limitations and capacity, again due to COVID-19, but also in connection with increased shipping associated with the holidays.
USCIS has stated that most notices should issue within 30 days of the application/petition receipt, meaning that notices may not arrive before 6-8 weeks from filing. Although USCIS provided this timeline, we have also seen greater delays in receipt. Often times, the first indication that USCIS has accepted the filing is cashing the check for the filing fee attached, so checking your bank records may be the way you discover that the filing has been accepted. If you have not received a notice within 6 weeks of filing, please reach out to your immigration attorney.
After USCIS accepts the application/petition, the next step for many applicants is to attend a biometric appointment. USCIS closed all of its biometric offices for three months between March and June 2020 and then limited the numbers of appointments starting in July. The most recent reports indicate that USCIS has 1.3 million biometric appointments that need to be scheduled/re-scheduled. Again, delays in biometric appointments is to be expected at this time and should not be cause for alarm. If you have a hearing coming up for which biometrics are required, please contact your immigration attorney to flag the issue.