Here at David Hirson & Partners, LLP (DHP), we share our clients’ frustrations with green card, employment authorization, and travel authorization delays at both USCIS and National Visa Center (NVC)/embassies around the world. Below, we hope to shed some light on why applicants are experiencing such delays.
Before the pandemic, applicants at the AOS stage could reasonably expect their AP-EAD combo card within 3-4 months, and green card in approximately 12 months. For those outside the U.S., appointments for DS-260 interviews could be expected within a couple of months.
Now, AP-EADs can take 7+ months and green cards could take 18-24 months. At the embassy, processing times are dependent on A) how long it takes NVC to send the file to the embassy and then B) whether or not the specific embassy is even operating at limited or full capacity.
Like individuals and businesses, USCIS, NVC, and embassies have not been immune to the pandemic. They have had to limit operations, close embassies, and have shut down local field offices for months. For example, the shutdown to local field offices responsible for fingerprinting has resulted in a backlog of over 1 million fingerprint appointments. The result? Serious delays to those in need of emergency travel and work authorization to maintain employment.
While I-485 Applications to Adjust Status are technically still within the normal published processing times, our firm has been helping our clients to sue the responsible government agencies on behalf of applicants who are in desperate need of their AP-EAD to work/travel. Most recently, we sued and received an AP-EAD approval in 12 days.
In regard to DS-260s, applicants have been hit hard at first at the National Visa Center (NVC) stage and then again at their local embassy that administers the green card interview. At NVC, officials have been vocal about how COVID-19 has forced them to gravely limit operations in terms of personnel and processes:
- Once an immigrant petition has been approved, there is an initial delay in USCIS sending the file to NVC for processing. This transfer is currently taking 3-5 months after the petition has been approved.
- After NVC receives the file, the immigrant visa case is created and applicants are asked to submit their DS-260s and supporting documents.
- While NVC is actively reviewing applications and are fairly quick to confirm receipt of all necessary documents, once applicants are placed in queue to be scheduled for their interview, it is up to the specific embassy/consulate to schedule each interview according to that embassy/consulate’s local schedule.
Due to the pandemic, embassies/consulates around the world are working at limited capacity or are not open at all. Some are only scheduling appointments on an emergency basis.
At DHP, we have an internal process of following up with USCIS, NVC, and the embassy on a timely and consistent basis so that:
- we put pressure on the agency to schedule an appointment, and
- create a record of inquiries in case we later sue for unreasonable delay (i.e., file a writ of mandamus).
If you are experiencing such unreasonable delays, then please contact us here or call (949) 383-5358.