Each year, tens of thousands of immigrants send green card applications to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Often, USCIS delays their green card applications. While green card delays are frustrating, you can speed up the process by knowing the common causes of delays and how to fix them.
In this article, we’ll go over some common reasons why the case is stuck and ways to resolve these issues.
Which Agency Handles Green Card Applications?
First it’s important to know who you’re dealing with.
When you apply for a green card in the U.S., the application is sent to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), which handles all green card applications. So, when your green card is delayed, USCIS is the agency responsible.
What Form Is Used for Adjustment of Status (AOS)?
When you ask for a green card without leaving the U.S., you’re asking for “Adjustment of Status.”
To adjust status, you need to file several forms. The most important is the I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If USCIS approves the I-485, USCIS will give you a green card.
You may learn that your case is delayed upon checking the status of your I-485.
Reason One: Evidence Is Missing
One reason for green card delays is missing evidence. USCIS reviews your applications in two places: 1) USCIS service centers; and 2) USCIS local field offices. Typically, a service center accepts the green card application (Form I-485), and then sends it to the local field office for a decision.
If your green card case is at the USCIS service center (and not the local field office), then the problem is usually more basic. Some examples:
- you didn’t sign your application form;
- you didn’t submit all the necessary forms;
- you didn’t submit proof
Here are some examples of where missing information can cause delays in your green card application:
- You did not attach an I-864, Affidavit of Support
- Your green card sponsor did not meet the income requirements
- You did not submit a birth certificate
- You did not sign the I-485
- You did not submit a Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency
If the above list seems confusing, don’t worry. The bottom line is that missing forms, signatures, and information can cause green card delays.
The delay will continue until you resolve the errors or provide missing documents. Once you fix the problem, then USCIS moves the case to a local field office.
How will you know if you are missing something? Usually, the USCIS service center will send you either a Request for Evidence (RFE) or sometimes a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). Read these carefully and pay attention to any deadlines. Don’t wait until the last minute. If you respond right away, you are likely to get a quick response.
If your case has was sent to a USCIS local field office, then your case will be assigned to an officer. That officer may interview you to review your case more closely. He or she may then decide you are missing other documents like criminal records, tax returns, or proof of your relationship to a family member.
That local officer can also an RFE, just like the service center. As mentioned, carefully read the RFE and respond promptly.
Reason Two: USCIS Errors
Unfortunately, USCIS sometimes loses track of a file, or it gets stuck on an officer’s desk. Like all people, USCIS officers often procrastinate, especially on difficult tasks. So if your case involves tricky immigration or criminal history, you may experience delays in getting a green card.
If this happens, the best move is to contact USCIS.
Reason Three: USCIS Background Checks or Investigations
Sometimes an applicant is red-flagged for security reasons, and USCIS conducts lengthy background checks. These checks can last months, and in terrorism-related cases, even years.
This can also happen when a USCIS officer thinks you engaged in marriage fraud. A case can also be referred to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
If you find yourself in this precarious situation, the best course of action is to consult an experienced immigration attorney. A good starting point would be to find an attorney who is member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
Reason Four: The Applicant Has a History With Another Agency
Like many green card applicants, you may have had prior dealings with an immigration judge or court, or have had encounters with Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In situations like these, USCIS will delay their green card cases until it can investigate further. That investigation can take time, because much of the information on your immigration history is not stored digitally.
For example, if a person was before an immigration judge, his or her file could be stored with another agency, called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). So when USCIS gets a green card application, it has to request the file from ICE. Thus, having a history with immigration officials can delay your green card processing.
The best solution here is to obtain a copy of your file and have an immigration attorney review it before you file.
Reason Five: You Moved to a Different Address
When you move to a different address, you have to your address with immigration officials.
If USCIS learns that you moved to a different city or state, it may move your green card case to a different field office. Because many files are not stored digitally, it takes time to physically mail your applications and other information to a new local field office. In this situation, you should expect delays in your green card case.
If you have a I-485 pending and move, you can charge with address with a Form AR-11. This can be filed online.