Checking Your Green Card Case Status

Checking Your Green Card Case Status

To get a green card in the U.S. you use Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status. Form I-485 is sometimes referred to as a green card case or application.  Below is some helpful information on checking your green card case status.

But before explaining further, you’ll probably want to know some basics.

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Understanding the Green Card Process

First, a quick summary of the green card process.

When you file for a green card, you’re asking to become a lawful permanent resident.  If you apply from inside the U.S. then you’ll file with the immigration agency known as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).  (Outside the U.S. is referred to as immigrant visa processing.  We also provide an overview of green card process outside the U.S. here)

Requesting a green card inside the U.S. is often referred to as “Adjustment of Status” or “AOS.”  To adjust status, you’ll use a Form I-485.

Checking the Status of your Green Card Application

Checking the case status online.

If you filed a Form I-485 with USCIS, you can do green card case status check online.  (If instead you filed a Form I-130, you’ll want to read more here.)

To check your green card case status online, you will need to find the Receipt Number for your I-485.  When you first filed your the form, you should have received a document known as a Receipt Notice, I-797 Notice of Action.  On your Receipt Notice, you’ll find your Receipt Number, which is at the top left corner of the I-797 and is made up of three letters followed by 10 numbers. (Ex NBC1234567890).

Possible information the online system may tell you.

A biometrics appointment has been scheduled

The system may say that you were mailed a fingerprint appointment notice, sometimes referred to as a biometrics appointment.

If so, you’ll need to make sure you got the notice in the mail, in order to find out when and where to go to give your fingerprints.  Immigration officials need your fingerprints to find out your immigration and criminal history.

A Request for Further Evidence has been sent

Another possible  result of your green card case status check is that the government sent a request for additional information.  This is called a Request for Evidence (RFE).  Usually, an RFE has a deadlines for responding.  If you don’t respond by the deadline , your green card application could be denied. So if your green card case status check says an RFE was sent, make sure you received it.

A notice that the case has been transferred

Occasionally, your green card case status may say the application was transferred to a different USCIS service center.  Sometimes this happens when one service center is backlogged, and to speed things up they send your case somewhere else.  In this situation, all you can do is wait until the service center makes a decision on your case or sends it to a local field office.

What Affects Green Card Processing Times?

The length of time for green card processing depends on several things.  To demonstrate, let’s look at some examples related to a family-based immigration case with USCIS.

Is your application based on a child-parent relationship?  Usually, green card applications based on child-parent relationships are faster.  They move quicker because they often do not require an interview since the birth certificate establishes the child-parent relationship.

Is it based on a marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident?   A marriage-based green card application is typically slower because there is almost  always an interview to see if the marriage is real.

One other thing to keep in mind during a green card case status check.  The processing time depends on where you are applying. Meaning, processing times for green card applications differ quite a bit by your city and state especially if USCIS wants to interview you.  For example, the processing times in Los Angeles, California will be far longer than in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

So if your green card case status check shows a delay, you should ask what is the basis of your application.  Often that will explain a perceived delay.

What If the Status Check Shows a Delay?

Before you spend time (and money) taking steps to speed up a decision on your green card application, you should start by checking processing times.  If your case is within normal process times, there is not much you can do.

If you check your green card case status and it’s processing slower than normal, then you should consider taking the steps below:

  • First, you’ll want to make a request online, called a USCIS case inquiry.  This sometimes helps cases by drawing attention to problems or delays on the part of the government. After you send the inquiry,  USCIS will then send you an email or letter telling you that your case status request was received and by when you’ll get a response.  Beware,  USCIS often does not respond or update the case status by the date stated in the response.
  • If the online request does not help — it usually does not — you will want to escalate the situation by calling the USCIS phone hotline at 1-800-375-5283  When you call, have your Receipt Number ready and be able to explain that the green card case status shows the case is taking longer than it is supposed to.
  • Last, if you know that your green card application has already been sent to a USCIS local field office, then  write a letter to that office asking for an a green card status update.  When you send the letter make sure to include all identifying information such as form type (I-485) and Receipt Number so USCIS will be able to locate your file.

For further information can also check out our article on fixing USCIS delays and our article on fixing delays in your green card case.

 

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