U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has kicked off 2020 with an efficiency drive, and is transferring some I-130 petitions and I-485 green card applications to service centers with shorter wait times in a bid to streamline its workflow.
What does that mean for you? Well, the good news is that USCIS says people whose cases are transferred won’t face a longer wait-time — and in some cases, applicants and petitioners might find their cases are handled a bit more quickly as a result of the reshuffle.
Is your case affected?
Most I-130 and I-485 filings aren’t affected by the USCIS reshuffle. The only cases that will be impacted are:
- I-130 petitions filed by U.S. citizens on behalf of immediate family members at the Nebraska Service Center;
- I-130 petitions filed by green card holders on behalf of their spouse or children with the California Service Center; or
- I-485 green card applications filed with the Vermont Service Center.
Even then, not every case is being transferred. If your case is moved to a new service center, you’ll receive an official transfer notification from USCIS. If you don’t hear directly from USCIS that your case has been transferred, nothing will change for you.
What happens if your case is transferred?
Your case being transferred shouldn’t cause any major disruption. Your receipt number won’t change, and you can continue to file any subsequent forms using the regular filing address listed online or in the form instructions.
One important caveat: if you want to request premium processing for a petition or application that’s been transferred, you’ll need to make sure you file Form I-907 and a copy of your receipt notice (Form I-797) with the service center that’s now handling your pending case.
Most importantly, if your case is transferred, you’ll be able to submit an online inquiry if your case isn’t resolved within the published processing times for your new service center. Since the new service centers have shorter processing times, that means you can expect your case to be handled a bit more quickly — and inquire about your case sooner if it isn’t handled promptly.
How much shorter are the processing times?
The impact of the reshuffle will depend on where you originally filed your papers, and on the processing times at the service center where your case will now be handled. Let’s take a closer look at the average processing times:
For I-130s for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens filed with the Nebraska Service Center, the average processing time is currently between 12.5 and 16 months. Your case could be transferred to:
- The Potomac Service Center, which averages 7.5 to 9.5 months;
- The Texas Service Center, which averages 8 to 10 months;
- The Vermont Service Center, which averages 13.5 to 17.5 months; or
- The California Service Center, which averages 52.5 Months to 68 Months.
For I-130s for spouses and children of green card holders filed with the California Service Center, the average processing time is currently 11 to 14.5 Months. Your case could be transferred to:
- The Potomac Service Center, which averages 7.5 to 9.5 Months;
- The Texas Service Center, which averages 5 Weeks to 7 months;
- The Nebraska Service Center, which averages 19.5 to 25.5 months; or
- The Vermont Service Center, which averages 13 to 17 months.
For I-485 green card applications filed with the Vermont Service Center, the average processing time is currently 10.5 to 23 months. Good news: if your case is transferred, it will go to the Nebraska Service Center, which is currently processing cases in 9.5 to 13.5 months.
How much will all this impact your application? It’s a bit hard to be sure, but if your application has been sent to a service center with low average processing times, it’s reasonable to expect that you’ll get a response a bit more quickly as a result of the transfer.
If your application has been sent to a service center with longer average processing times, don’t panic: USCIS says nobody will face a longer wait as a result of being transferred, so you shouldn’t be any worse off as a result of having had your case transferred. Remember to keep track of your case status, and check the Boundless blog for updates on other developments that could impact your immigration journey.