With some case types taking exceedingly long for USCIS to adjudicate, and with other cases falling through the cracks, often attorneys get inquiries from individuals looking to get their cases “back on track,” and promptly decided. This column is meant to provide the latest information about this topic.
USCIS recently updated its case processing times page, now providing more accurate ranges for specific form types. If the case is outside of the posted processing time, it is possible to report the delay to USCIS customer service by calling 1-800-375-5283. Individuals experiencing these delays may also report the delay using the USCIS tools page and making an e-request. Likewise, by contacting your congressional representative, their office can also make inquiries, on behalf of constituents, with USCIS and other governmental agencies. Attorneys have found that the effectiveness of a congressional inquiry has varied among representatives and the matters in question. Additionally, individuals can seek to resolve disputes by submitting inquiries with the USCIS Ombudsman’s office, as well as, submitting letters to the USCIS Field Office Director supervising their case or the corresponding District Counsel for the respective field office.
It is critical to retain detailed records for all inquiries made with USCIS. If the matter is not promptly resolved, in certain cases it may be appropriate to escalate action and file a lawsuit in federal district court compelling USCIS to decide the case. In those cases, the previous inquiries may serve as supporting exhibits to the lawsuit and demonstrate the government’s failure to act in a reasonable timeframe. When a complaint is filed in federal court, a U.S. Attorney will be assigned to the case and will likely seek to resolve the case with the attorney who filed the complaint. Rarely do “delay” lawsuits reach a trial, as frequently the mere filing of the complaint prompts USCIS to act. Furthermore, “delay” lawsuits do not create a prejudice against a foreign national’s immigration case.
Of note, “delay” lawsuits do not entitle aggrieved individuals to approvals of benefits but, rather, a decision or action from the agency causing the delay. As stated early, it is important to discuss with an attorney to understand if your particular circumstance is ripe for and could benefit from federal litigation.