After a green card or visa application is mailed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), we must wait for USCIS to issue a response (for example, approval). But how long do you have to wait? And can you check the status of your case while it is with USCIS?
Check Immigration Processing Times and Case Status Online
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No matter how many visas and green cards we work on, it's always a good feeling to mail an application to USCIS. After the case is sent to USCIS, the anticipation period comes. Timelines are easy to predict for cases filed with premium processing, but case processing times for regular applications can feel unclear.
Thankfully, there are several tools on the USCIS website that help us anticipate how long a case will take to process, and actively check statuses.
Check Average Processing Times for Green Cards and Visas
USCIS’s case processing times tool allows you to view average processing times for nonimmigrant visas, immigrant visas, green cards, and other immigration applications, like employment authorization documents (EADs) and advance parole.
This can be helpful if you have a pending petition and want an estimate of how much longer you’ll need to wait before receiving an approval. Additionally, you can use this tool to check whether your pending case is outside normal processing times before submitting an e-Request to USCIS Also, this tool is useful if you are considering applying for permanent residence or a work visa but want understand the application process timeline.
Processing times are constantly shifting, but the USCIS website is continually updated based on those changes.
The tool can be a little confusing if you aren't familiar with all the categories. Let's break it down so you can easily access this valuable immigration data.
How to use USCIS's processing times tool
To check case processing times, you need three pieces of information: Form Type, Form Category, and Field Officer or Service Center.
Form Type: This refers to the immigration Form associated with the visa or green card. 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 immigrant 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 immigrant 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 associated with a green card or visa. Here are some common categories:
- 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"
- I-131 advance parole filed with green card application: "Advance parole"
- EAD filed with a green card application: "Based on a pending I-485 adjustment application"
USCIS has a helpful document to aid you in understanding which Form and form category is applicable to you.
Field Office or Service Center: This is the USCIS office where a 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 simultaneously, 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.
The three letters at the beginning of you receipt notice indicate where you case is processing:
- EAC or VSC: Vermont Service Center
- WAC or CSC: California Service Center
- LIN or NSC: Nebraska Service Center
- SRC or TSC: Texas Service Center
- MSC: Missouri Service Center
- YSC: Potomac Service Center
- IOE: USCIS Electronic Immigration System
- NBC or NVC: National Visa Center
Is your case outside normal processing times?
If you have a case that is taking longer than the average processing times reported on USCIS’s processing times tool, you can submit an e-Request. To submit an e-Request inquiry, you will need to include the following information:
- Your receipt number
- A-Number (if applicable)
- Filing date for your pending application or petition
- Application or petition type
- Your email address
Track Your Unique Green Card or Visa 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.
You'll need a receipt notice with your unique receipt number, also called case number, to use the tool.
For cases filed with premium processing: 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. However, USCIS can experience delays. 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).
For cases filed without premium processing: 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 without dashes 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!
How do I use the I-485 tracker?
U.S. green card tracking is fairly simple with USCIS's free tools. You can check the status of your application online through USCIS's website.
Can I sign up for USCIS case status alerts?
You can sign up for case status alerts through your USCIS account.
How soon can I come to the United States after my visa is approved?
If your visa was filed as Consular, you will need to go to an appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad before coming to the U.S. You can set up an appointment after your visa petition is approved.
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 confidently wait for a USCIS decision. Connect with our team to get started on your next application with us!