How To Expedite Your Immigrant Visa Case
If you’ve ever applied for a U.S. visa, you’ll quickly realize how slow the process can be. It can take several months to years to get a final decision even if you have a simple case. Sadly, USCIS is very understaffed which may be the reason for the processing delays. Before we dive into how to expedite your immigrant visa case, we’ll discuss what can cause a delay.
The most common reason that a case can take months to process is the case load of each adjudicator. They are given a certain number of applications to review each month and your case may not get to the top for a few months. This is why receiving a request for evidence (RFE) can really delay your approval. When a RFE is mail to you, the adjudicator stops processing your case and moves on to the next one. Thankfully, when you respond they will begin processing your case next.
Another thing that can delay your case is minor mistakes on your petition. If the wrong box was ticked, your name misspelled (yes this happens) or dates mixed up it can lengthen the time it takes for your petition to be approved. So, before you mail the application, remember to review it 2 or 3 times beforehand.
When Can You Request an Expedite of Your Case?
There are certain emergency situations that USCIS allows an applicant to request to speed up the processing of their visa. Now your definition of an emergency can be completely different than theirs. When it comes to USCIS, they seem to want you to prove extreme hardship or emergency situations and not the usual problems we all face.
- Severe financial loss to company or individual
- You’ll need to show that without an expedite you will suffer severe financial loss. This type of expedite request is more common with employers seeking visa’s for foreign workers. But, it can sometimes work for those who are petitioning for a family member.
- Extreme emergencies
- An example of this can be that your U.S. spouse is seriously ill (terminal cancer) or completely disabled and needs around the clock care. Just being sick in the hospital isn’t enough either. You need to show that it is extreme and long term. You will then need to include evidence such as medical records, letters from your doctors and other documents showing prognosis.
- Humanitarian situation
- If your home country has a breakout of civil or mass starvation, USCIS may consider expediting your case so that you don’t suffer the consequences. The evidence you need to prove this is new articles talking about the war or famine. The article must have current date and be verifiable by USCIS adjudicators.
- Nonprofit status of requesting organization in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States
- An example of this is if a nonprofit organization requests expedited processing if they were broadcasting in regional areas to promoted democratic interests.
- Department of Defense or National Interest Situation
- The request must come from official United States Government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the US government.
- USCIS error
- It’s no surprise that USCIS can and does make mistakes when processing a case. If you realize that they made an error in processing your case, notify them as quickly as possible by calling customer service at 1-800-375-5283 or schedule an InfoPass appointment at a local office.
- Compelling interest of USCIS
- I haven’t seen anyone get an expedite based on this criteria. Ultimately, it’s up to USCIS to decide what is in their best interest. I’m honestly not sure what type of evidence you could provide in this case.
How To Expedite Your Immigration Visa Case
To request USCIS to expedite the processing of an immigrant petition or visa, you’ll need to contact the National Customer Service Center (NCSC). The NCSC forwards your Service Request to the office with jurisdiction over the application or petition.
Call the National Customer Service Center
This option is quick and easy and can often be completed the same day. Remember to get confirmation of the expedite request over the phone and don’t hang up until you do. If the first customer service representative is not helpful to you, hang up and call again. You may get someone on the phone that is unfamiliar or unwilling to process an expedite request. Instead of getting upset, just call back and talk to someone else.
I always recommend putting your request in writing so you can keep a copy of the request. USCIS is notorious for losing documents and asking for them again and again.
Write a Letter of Expedite to USCIS
I’d recommend that you submit your request in writing for a few reasons:
I generally think the best first step is a written request for expedited processing. Of course, this needs to be submitted to the correct USCIS office and should include the evidence you can provide to show you meet one or more of the expedite criteria. A persuasive cover letter or brief from your attorney should also help.
Reasons to submit expedite request in writing:
First, it’s important to have a record of what you’ve requested so that later if you have to prove what steps you took you can provide a copy of this letter.
Second, although you can make the request by phone, you win t be sure that they’re going to write down everything you tell them. Anyone can contact the National Customer Service Center. But I prefer to have a request in writing.
Third, when you submit your request in writing, you can attach evidence to show you meet the required expedite criteria. You can’t really do this overt the phone, right? Certainly USCIS can follow up with you after a phone request and ask you for more information. But if they don’t you won’t be able to prove your case.
Schedule an InfoPass at a local Service Center
You also have the option to visit a local office by scheduling an InfoPass appointment. Petitioners that live overseas should submit their requests directly to the USCIS office with jurisdiction over their applications or petitions; contact information for overseas USCIS offices is provided on the USCIS website.
Remember, USCIS reserves the right to request documentation supporting the request to expedite an application or petition and it’s up to them to choose whether to grant this request.
Premium Processing For Family Based Visas?
If you haven’t heard of premium processing, it’s offered to employers who want to quickly approve a work visa such as form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. Don’t get this mixed up with form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance, these are two completely different applications.
An employer would submit the request using form I-907 Request for Premium Processing and this reduces processing time to 15 days. Can you imagine if this was an option for family-based visas? That would be pretty incredible, right? Well, come back to reality because this is not an option for us because our family visas are not considered an “urgent priority”.
Your best bet would be to show proof of an emergency situation or humanitarian relief if you are applying for a family-based visa.
Final Thoughts On Visa Expedite Requests
Doesn’t it seem like the wait times are getting longer and longer? I’m not sure if it’s due to increased numbet of immigrants or more paperwork that is required, but it’s ridiculous. It’s about time USCIS took advantage of the internet and made applications fully electronic.
For those of you that can get your case expedited, the waiting period isn’t so bad. A visa expedite is like skipping to the front of the line while the rest of the people wait endlessly to hear back from USCIS. Your case immediately gets priority processing and you can get approval within 30 days.
I’ve received questions asking whether pregnancy of the beneficiary or petitioner can be considered a medical emergency. My answer is both yes and no. Pregnancy is not considered an emergency unless it’s considered an emergency. Okay, that may not have made much sense but let me try to explain it further. If your doctor believes that you have a very high risk pregnancy and need to be on strict bed rest, it can be used as a reason for visa expedite.
The most important factor is that you can prove that the pregnancy is high risk. You doctor will really need to make a good case for you and include plenty of documentation. Disability is also a gray area because it would need to be severe and permanent. USCIS wants to see that the disability negatively affects your life to the point where you need 24 hour care. Bottom line is that you will need to have solid evidence of any medical condition that you will be claiming.
Do you need your visa expedited? Has this post helped you understand what you need to do? Let me know if the comments below.
Ayan is the founder of the Migrant Academy community, the My Path To Citizenship Blog and Podcast.
After successfully navigating the hurdles of US immigration. She now dedicates her time to helping other couples achieve their goals of starting their new life together in the US.