After an application is mailed in, we have to wait for USCIS to issue a response, such as an approval. But how long do you have to wait? And is there any way to check the status of your case while it is with USCIS?
At Legalpad, our team of immigration attorneys and experts use technology, tried and true methods, and customized immigration strategies to make visa and green card applications as seamless and speedy as possible.
At this point, we’ve helped hundreds of people like you prepare successful O-1 visas, L-1 visas, H-1B visas, TN visas, E-2 visas, EB-1 petitions, EB-2 NIW petitions, and green card applications (Form I-485).
No matter how many visas and green cards we work on, it’s always a good feeling to mail an application in to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Checking visa processing times
USCIS’s website allows you to check general processing times for applications filed with USCIS, including nonimmigrant visas, immigrant visas, green cards, advance parole applications, employment authorization document (EAD) applications, and more.
This website can be a little confusing if you aren’t familiar with all the categories you have to select to view processing times, but that is why we’re here to help!
Before we get into it, it is important to know that these processing times are for applications filed without premium processing. Premium processing is only available for certain applications and usually costs $2500. Applications filed with premium processing will be reviewed within the date quoted by USCIS, which is usually 15 or 45 calendar days. If you are planning to file an application with premium processing, you can count on the quoted timeline rather than the processing times on this website.
If you aren’t filing with premium processing, though, this tool is extremely helpful! Processing times are constantly shifting, and this website is continually updated based on those changes.
To view processing times, you will have to know three pieces of information: Form, Form Category, and Field Officer or Service Center.
This information should be available on your receipt notice if you have already filed your application. If you have not filed your application yet, you can still use USCIS’s website to get estimates of processing times for future applications. Here is what you need to know:
- Form: This refers to the Form you filed, which may or may not be familiar to you. For your convenience, here is an outline of which common Forms correspond with different types of applications:
- Form I-129: Any work visa, such as O-1 visas, L-1 visas, H-1B visas, TN visas, E-2 visas, etc.
- Form I-130: Family-based green card petitions
- Form 1-131: Advance Parole applications for travel documents (often filed at the same time as Form I-485)
- Form I-140: Employment-based green card petitions, such as EB-1 or EB-2 NIW
- Form I-485: The green card application
- Form I-765: Employment authorization document (EAD) application
- Form Category: The Form Category is the more specific category that you applied for. Here are the categories for the most common applications our clients file:
- O-1A: “O - Extraordinary ability”
- L-1A: “L - Intracompany transfers”
- H-1B: There are three categories for H-1Bs depending on if your visa will be issued abroad, if you are changing status within the U.S., or extending your stay in the U.S.
- TN: “TN - North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional”
- E-2: “E- Treaty traders and investors”
- EB-1A: “Extraordinary ability (E11)”
- EB-2 NIW: “Advanced degree or exceptional ability requesting a National Interest Waiver”
- Green card application based on EB-1A or EB-2 NIW: “Employment-based adjustment applications”
- Advance Parole filed with green card application: “Advance parole”
- EAD filed with a green card application: “Based on a pending I-485 adjustment application”
- Field Office or Service Center: This is the location where your specific application is processed. Keep in mind that USCIS may transfer your application to another location after you send it in, so use the address on your receipt notice, not the address you mailed it to. Also, if you sent in numerous applications at the same time they may be processed at different locations. If you haven’t submitted your application yet, you can still check processing times at the various locations to get an estimate.
USCIS has a helpful document to aid you in understanding which Form and form category is applicable to you.
Checking your case status
USCIS’s website also allows you to check your individual case status online. Unlike the processing times tool, this tool is only useful once you have already sent in an application and received a receipt notice from USCIS.
If your case was filed with premium processing, your immigration team should receive a digital receipt notice from USCIS within a week of sending your case in, but it is not uncommon for there to be delays with USCIS. Even if your receipt notice is delayed, USCIS should still review your case and issue a response within the quoted premium processing time (15 or 45 days).
If your case was not filed with premium processing, it can sometimes take longer to be issued a receipt notice. We’ve seen USCIS take a couple of months to issue receipt notices at times, but you should generally expect a receipt in under three weeks.
Once you have a receipt notice in front of you, you should be able to find your receipt number, which is a unique 13-character code. Receipt numbers consist of three letters and ten numbers.
All you have to do to check your case status online is type in your receipt number here! In our experience, USCIS seems to update this website frequently throughout the day. You can expect your status to update online more quickly than you’ll receive any notices in the mail from USCIS. There are, of course, rare exceptions!
Most of the work to get a U.S. visa or green card happens before you mail in the application to USCIS. However, we know that the waiting period while USCIS reviews your application can be a challenging time. That is why we are here to prepare your best possible application so that you can wait for a USCIS decision with confidence. Connect with our team to get started on your next application with us!