USCIS Announces New Pilot Program Introducing New Method to Calculate Case Processing Times

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a new pilot program that will improve the accuracy and reporting of current USCIS processing times. As our readers will be aware, USCIS processing times have increased significantly during the past few years, especially for certain types of petitions, due to severe backlogs and personnel shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, this has made it more and more difficult for applicants to ascertain exactly where they stand in the processing pipeline. To help resolve these issues, USCIS is testing new ways to better calculate processing times for immigration benefit requests with the unveiling of a new pilot program. This new system will help certain applicants determine whether their case is outside of the normal processing time, and when they can inquire about the status of their case. The pilot program will begin with posted processing times for Forms I-90, I-102, I-485, I-526, I-751, I-765, I-817, I-824, I-829, I-914, I-924, N-400, N-600 and N-600K.


Unfortunately, thousands of applicants have been negatively impacted by the lengthy processing times, currently affecting a broad range of applications and petitions filed at USCIS service centers nationwide. Many have been waiting months on end for interview scheduling, while others have yet to receive a Notice of Action, informing them that their case was properly filed and received by USCIS.

Our office first began to notice a lack of transparency within the agency at the start of the Trump administration. Applicants and their legal representatives were once able to contact the agency by telephone, or by scheduling Info pass appointments to resolve issues in person. Unfortunately, all of these mechanisms slowly went away as Trump took office leaving applicants wondering what has been happening with their cases.

Currently, USCIS is still operating a closed system of communication making it nearly impossible for applicants to get a hold of a live customer service representative.

This new overhaul of the USCIS processing system will mark the first step taken by the Biden administration to restore confidence in the agency. Applicants will now have the opportunity to understand where their application stands, and how much longer it might take for applications to be adjudicated.

What Forms will be included in the new pilot program?

The new USCIS pilot program creates a more accurate method to calculate processing times for the following applications: Forms I-90, I-102, I-485, I-526, I-751, I-765, I-817, I-824, I-829, I-914, I-924, N-400, N-600 and N-600K. For these petitions, USCIS will be posting processing times that are more accurate, timely, and easier to understand.

What about for all other forms? How will processing times be calculated?

For all other (non-pilot forms), USCIS will continue to use its old method to calculate processing times but will add an upper limit that is generally 130% of the processing time.

Processing Times Will Be Given a Range

According to USCIS, the agency will be providing case processing times as a range on its website. For example, when applicants search for the current processing time of Form N-400, an estimated time range will be appear – for instance of 5.5 to 8 months. The first number of the estimated time range will indicate the time it is taking for USCIS to complete 50% of the selected case type (the median), while the second number will indicate the time it is taking for USCIS to complete 93% of the selected case type. 

In the above example 50% of N-400 applications would take approximately 5.5 months to be adjudicated, while 93% of N-400 applications would be adjudicated within 8 months.

*Note the above timeframes are merely examples, and do not reflect current N-400 processing times.

Processing times for forms included in the new pilot program will generally be based on an analysis of the completed cases for the prior month unless otherwise stated in the “notes” section of a specific form on the USCIS processing times page.

Processing times will also be updated on a monthly basis to provide the most accurate processing times available to applicants.

USCIS has also said that the agency will calculate processing times by using historical data of completed cases. USCIS will not be able to project how long it will take to complete a case filed today.

What information will applicant’s need to access processing time information for the above types of cases?

As has always been the case, to determine the processing time of any form, applicant’s will need to know their (1) Form or Case type (2) Receipt number (3) Receipt date and (4) the USCIS office processing their application or petition. Such information can be found on the applicant’s I-797C, Notice of Action.

Note:If your “USCIS Office” is the National Benefits Center (NBC) and you have filed an employment-based or family-based Form I-485, Form N-400, or Form N-600, you should check processing times for your local field office.

How will applicants know if their applications are outside of the normal processing time?

For all forms participating in the pilot program as indicated above, USCIS has posted a “Receipt date for a case inquiry” to show when applicants can inquire about their case.

The “Receipt date for a case inquiry” is the upper end of the range (converted to a date). If your receipt date is before the “Receipt date for a case inquiry”, you will be able to submit an “outside normal processing time” service request online on the USCIS website.

Applicants who do not receive a satisfactory response by filing a case inquiry on the USCIS website, may also consider contacting the USCIS Ombudsman to resolve their situation.

We applaud these efforts by the incoming Biden administration and look forward to seeing more transparency from USCIS to help applicants obtain information about their cases during this extremely challenging time.

Want to know more? Click here for the new pilot program announcement. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.

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