In response to a report written by the Office of the Inspector General, USCIS changed its posted processing times overnight between March 21 and March 22. On March 21, according to the official USCIS website (USCIS.GOV) USCIS Denver was processing I-485 applications (Application to Adjust Status) filed on or before December 31, 2016 and estimated that it would take up to 14 months to process this type of application. On March 22, the processing time read June 12, 2016, and the estimated processing time was 14-30 months for this type of application, meaning 14 months was now at the lowest end of the range! Overnight, the processing time had somehow retrogressed more than six months and USCIS stated that it could take up to 2.5 years to process an adjustment of status application.
To put this change in context, it used to take approximately 6-9 months for the same application to be scheduled for an interview in Denver. This has changed drastically since Donald Trump was elected and then became President. USCIS Denver has one of the longest processing times in the United States compared to other offices. For example, the same type of case (I-485) is taking only 5-15 months to process in Louisville, KY.
The same thing happened to the processing times of many common applications including the I-765 (work permit), I-131 (travel permit), and I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). Work permits are very important for our clients and the processing times of those applications have gone from a regulation limit of 90 days (as recently as January 2017) to seven to nine months in many cases. The regulation was changed to allow USCIS more time to process these applications. This problem is compounded by the fact that USCIS is issuing more and more requests for evidence (“RFEs”), often regarding issues that have no relevance to whether the case should be granted. For example, attorneys have received RFEs for work permits that ask for the applicant’s criminal history. That fact is irrelevant to the determination of a work permit. Errors abound in these RFE’s and it is often clear that USCIS has not read or reviewed the evidence that you have submitted, because they ask for items that were provided in the original evidence packet. Once an RFE is submitted, USCIS takes the position that the clock re-starts and they have an additional 90 days (or more ) to decide the case, from the date that they receive the RFE response.
Why does all of this matter? It matters because people need a work permit to work legally in the United States and then to get a social security card and a driver’s license in most states. It matters because, if the case is not processing outside of posted processing times, USCIS does not allow you to inquire about a case online or over the phone (efforts are futile). Therefore, you cannot follow up to pressure USCIS to make a decision on a case until that case has been pending longer than the average processing time. And once you do inquire, it often takes USCIS months to respond to the same. Attorneys in Colorado report having I-765 applications, based on an adjustment of status, pending since February 2017.
If you are a current client, please bear with us while we attempt to follow-up regarding a growing number of pending cases and respond to a growing number of requests for evidence. If your case is taking longer than we anticipated when we started the case, this is the reason why. The government appears to be slowing down the processing of cases significantly, to the point of absurdity. If you are not a client and you need help following up with USCIS regarding a pending case or a new case, please schedule an appointment for a consultation. Bear in mind that there is only so much we can do as attorneys to get the government to act. Much of what is currently impacting the long processing times is outside of our control.
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