uscis case status

How To Check USCIS Case Status And What It Means

Obsessively checking your case status multiple times a day is normal behavior for someone who just submitted a visa or green card application. Am I right? I remember when we sent in our I-129F fiance visa petition, I had to check USCIS case status almost every hour those first few days.

Why? Let’s just say that I’m a little O.C.D. over important things such as this.

You may be feeling a little anxious or worried about your case being denied or delayed in some way. This can cause even the most patient person to freak out if the USCIS case status doesn’t change for a while.

So, this post is all about how to check USCIS case status and what each status really means. This will help to understand what is going on backstage with the adjudicators and whether you should be relieved or worried.

Case Example:

Albert recently submitted form I-485 to adjust his status from a student visa to a green card. He hopes that he won’t need to wait too long since he is now married to a U.S. citizen. Within a week of submitting the application, he received the first notice of action (NOA1 – I-797C).

He immediately went online to check the USCIS case status website to find out what is going on with his case. It said “initial acceptance” and this would mean that Albert would need to wait a little longer for them to review his application for a green card.

What You Need To Check Your USCIS Case Status

Before you immediately try to go online to check your USCIS case status, you’ll need to have your receipt number. This is a number that is specific to your case and will be included with the first notice of action (NOA1).

Note: Notice of Action (NOA1) simply refers to letter I-797 you received from USCIS after submitting your application.

Below is a copy of this letter and you will notice on the left hand side it says “receipt number”. This is the number you will use to check your case status online at www.uscis.gov.

pending I-485

If it’s been longer than 2 weeks since you’ve send in your application and you still haven;t received this notice of action, contact customer service. Their phone number is 1-800-375-5283.

Once you get to a human, you want to give them your name and explain that you submitted an application to USCIS but you haven’t received the first notice of acceptance yet. They will likely ask for additional information to find your file then let you know when to expect a response.

How To Check USCIS Case Status Online

Step 1: Find your receipt number.

After you receive the first notice of action, you will be able to find the receipt number on the letter. We will use this receipt number to find your file and get your case status online.

Step 2: Go to USCIS.gov website.

Go to USCIS website and find the link that says “check case status”. This will take you to a new page that asks for your receipt number.

uscis website

Step 3: Enter your receipt number online.

Enter your number and click on “check status”.

Next, it will take you to a page that will show you the current case status for your application.

uscis case status online

Step 4: Find the case status.

After you click on “check status” it will take you to a page the shows a brief description of your case status. The status changes based on

i-130 case status

What Each Case Status Really Means

  • Acceptance
    • When you first submit your application to USCIS, it show a status of “acceptance.” This tells you that USCIS accepted your application and you submitted the correct fees. It doesn’t mean that you sent in all the evidence they need because an adjudicator hasn’t properly reviewed your case yet. The initial review simple makes sure you signed the forms and submitted the right payment amount.
  • Initial Review
    • When your case is in “initial review” it means that it has been assigned to an adjudicator to review. It may be sitting on someone’s desk though so don’t panic if it’s in this status for several months. This is normal.
  • Request for Evidence
    • When you receive an RFE, it means that the adjudicator has completely reviewed your case and documents but something was missing. Before they can make a final decision, they need to evidence or document that was missing. You only have one chance to respond to an RFE so make sure to submit everything they need. If you don’t submit everything they need, it will result in a case denial.
  • Testing and Interview
    • Depending on the type of application you sent in, you may be required to submit to testing and an interview. Most visa and green card applications will require an interview at the consulate or USCIS office in the United States. Others may be required to complete a medical exam or DNA testing.
  • Decision
    • This is what you’ve been waiting for! USCIS finally makes a decision on your case (whether approved or denied). When you check your case status, it will tell you that you have either been approved or denied. You will also get a letter in the mail telling you what the next steps will be.
  • Post-Decision Activity
    • This case status lets you know that they are processing your visa or green card. Your case will only be in this status for a few days to a week maximum.
  • Card Production
    • Once your visa or green card is approved, it will likely be issued and mailed to you. You case will be in the “card production” status until your receive your new card or visa stamp in the mail. Congrats!

What To Do If Your Case Status Doesn’t Change

Some people will notice that their case status doesn’t change for months or up to a year. This is not normal and you should contact USCIS if your case falls outside the normal processing times.

Normal processing times will depend on the type of visa you have applied for and which country you live in. If the country you are applying from is part of travel ban list, it will take much longer than a year to complete processing. All you can do is contact the U.S. consulate to get a status update.

Note: A case that is in “administrative processing” is a whole different story! There is no specific time limit for how long a case can be in AP. I’ve seen them take as little as 2 weeks as long as 14 months.

For those of you who are already in the United States and looking to adjust status from a nonimmigrant visa to a green card, processing times range from 6 months to 1 year total. If it takes longer than 6 months for your status to change from Initial Review to Decision, contact USCIS customer service to get an update on your case.

You  may need to submit an official inquiry by email or mail because I’ve noticed that customer service may not be helpful at times.

Case Example:

Marvin submitted form I-485 to adjust status from a L1 visa. He entered the country on a work visa that his company sponsored and was later able to adjust status based on their sponsorship.

After submitting the initial documents, his case status showed as “acceptance”. He received his first notice of action (NOA1) in the mail when USCIS accepted his application and cashed the check.

After 4 months, he noticed that his case was still in “acceptance” and didn’t change to “initial review”. He contacted USCIS customer service who checked on his file and confirmed that it was likely routed to the wrong service center or may have been lost. They will contact the local service center that has his case to make an inquiry.

You may be surprised at how often USCIS looses documents or mixes them up.

Adjudicators are only human and they are overworked and underpaid. If it’s been a few months since you submitted your case and the status hasn’t been updated, contact USCIS customer service to get an update.

If contacting customer service doesn’t work, you can also contact your local congressperson to make an inquiry on your behalf. This can help speed up processing of your case if USCIS dropped the ball.

It’s not a guarantee when you get your congressperson involved, but it doesn’t hurt either.

Final Thoughts On Checking USCIS Case Status

Checking your case status is important and should be done on a regular basis. Not only will this ensure you don’t miss a request for evidence (RFE) that was sent to you, but it’s the first indicator that tells you how close you are to a decision.

Your case will likely go through a number of cases statuses described above but it may also skip some steps completely.

The most important thing is to respond to a request for evidence in the time limit given and submit everything that was asked for. USCIS only allows one opportunity for you to respond to an RFE so if you miss something, you won’t get another chance.

If you’re concerned about your case status and would like to discuss your case, sign up for premium case support. This will allow me to get on the phone with your and go over what you’ve submitted and what to do next.

 

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Hi! I’m a foreign born Canadian that has immigrated to the United States to marry the love of my life. I successfully navigated the U.S. immigration system all the way to U.S. citizenship. Immigration is a privilege not a right!

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