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Although U.S. immigration processes have been around for a very long time, there have been a large number of policy changes over the last 10 years as a result of the ever-changing political priorities of the various American Presidents. These constant changes have greatly complicated what have historically been fairly basic and simple requests from the government.
Most people have no idea how the immigration process really works or what a realistic expectation should be. Most applicants are very surprised by the difficulty of the process and the length of time it ends up taking. Although processing times are currently abnormally long due to Covid-19, they have always taken much longer than what the average applicant thinks they should take. It is common for an applicant to think the immigration process will be quick like renewing a driver’s license and they are flabbergasted when they do not get approved within one or two months. In most cases, the processing times for processes like a marriage-based green card is closer to one- and one-half years, and naturalization taking close to one full year.
So, what leads to this delay and how can it be avoided? Outside of delays caused by Covid-19, green card requests can be made in a way that reduces the chances of unnecessary delay. Although an improperly submitted request can be caused by many reasons, the main roadblocks for many problem cases come down to not properly including the required evidence for the particular category being requested. One common example from people who try to file their own process is the failure of the applicant to include proof of proper entry into the U.S. The right to interview inside the U.S. is dependent on showing the government the person is in the country legally. If they cannot or do not prove this properly, the delay from this single misstep can take up to nine months to correct, if that is even possible.
Applicants who do not properly file their green card request can end up having to start over from scratch in order to correct certain fundamental errors in their filing. Naturally, this causes serious delays in time and additional financial costs in repeat filing fees as well as for those who need to hire an attorney to correctly file a second time. Unlucky applicants can eventually discover that they are not able to re-file for several years or that they are no longer eligible for the process at all. Really unlucky applicants receive notices to appear in deportation court.
Typical roadblocks for naturalization applicants involve past criminal histories that make them ineligible for naturalization either temporarily or permanently. Usually, temporary bars to naturalization last for about 5 years depending on the crime and when the crime was committed. For others, it is not possible to qualify for citizenship in the U.S. ever. Typically, the notice of denial for naturalization is swiftly followed by a notice to appear for their deportation and the removal of their legal residency status.
Other obstacles that do not lead to a bar or deportation can lead to long delays in the process and thousands of dollars trying to fix the underlying problem. Naturalization is the pinnacle of an immigrant’s journey in the U.S. and the laws relating to being admitted to this select group are very strict indeed. If an applicant fails to properly meet the underlying requirements relating to travel or time outside the U.S., they will be given the opportunity to correct these problems before being formally denied, but often the period of time they have is limited. Failure to remove the particular barrier before the stated deadline will result in a denial and a 3-5 year waiting period before being allowed to re-apply.
There are applicants fortunate enough to file properly and who do not have to slowly pick their way through the administrative minefield and only have to worry about waiting. Since it is not easy to wait without knowing how long it may take, immigration does provide limited information for applicants to check on the status of their process or information about average processing times at each of the immigration offices nationwide. This can all be accessed at the following page: https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do
If you need assistance filing for your naturalization or green card process and would like to avoid lengthy delays and other problems, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. You can do this by calling our office at 616-805-3435 or by using the following link to schedule an appointment online: https://marvinlawoffice.com/schedule-a-consultation/