The immigration system can seem like it’s in a time warp. Three months’ processing is considered fast and waiting for three hours is normal. If I went to my job and made my boss wait three months for a small project or kept my team waiting for three hours while I worked on something else, I would be fired. Yet, in the world of USCIS, things keep moving along at this seeming snail’s pace.
To be fair, I understand that this is a government agency with limited resources. For example, interviewing officers are strongly discouraged from working any overtime. They are expected to interview a large number of people every day, leaving little to no time for reviewing older cases. I believe that the individuals working for USCIS are doing the best they can, but they are given very difficult constraints.
Let’s look at a few examples where the delays are most pronounced:
The I-130 is the petition filed by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to start the process of bringing a family member to the country. If the family member is overseas, they will need to consular process. I-130s that will move towards consular processing are taking over ONE YEAR to adjudicate. That is one year of families being kept apart. After the I-130 is approved, consular processing can begin. But that’s another three to five months of separation. USCIS recognizes that this one year wait is unacceptable and they are trying to spread the work around so that decisions get made faster. Recognizing the problem is a good first step, but these families deserve faster adjudications.
ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS INTERVIEW SCHEDULING
Every USCIS Field Office has its own unique caseload. In Atlanta, for example, there are approximately 40 interviewing officers. They are responsible for all of Georgia and Alabama and are therefore the busiest office in the Southeast.
Having said that, though, I have to wonder why two nearly identical cases – one filed August 29, 2013, in Boston and the other filed September 3, 2013, in Atlanta – have very different timelines. The Boston case ended in late November. The family had an interview and the green card was granted. The Atlanta, case, though, is still waiting for an interview. Since Atlanta is processing cases from May 2, 2013, this case may not be done until May of this year, at best. Should a family in Boston have a six-month advantage over a family in Atlanta?
DELAYS AT THE INTERVIEW
If you’ve attended an interview at the Atlanta Field Office in the past three months, you’ll know that the scheduled interview time and the time you actually get called in for an interview are very different. Typical wait-times have swollen to over two hours. It’s not a one-time occurrence – it is nearly every single day. People have started bringing books to read during the wait. If you’re scheduled towards the end of the day, the odds increase that you won’t actually be seen that day – officers go home while there are still people waiting to be interviewed. Not every Field Office is like this. Delays are common, but not to this extreme.
I wish I had the answer to why we have these crazy delays. But, I want you to know that the delays aren’t you – it’s them. USCIS knows the delays are bad and they are working on fixing them, but in the meantime, we all continue to wait.