The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

One of the most common questions we are asked is “How long will it take?” I’m reminded of Tom Petty’s song, The Waiting, where he sings, “You take it on faith, you take it to the heart, the waiting is the hardest part.”

“How long?” can be a tricky question to answer.  It requires a quick assessment of a client’s readiness to file, an idea of the current processing times with the agency or agencies in question, as well as a sense of the bureaucracy and delays that may be encountered along the way.  Delays are more predictable in some cases than others, but every case can get delayed.  Often times there are more than one way to file an application, with two separate timelines.

That said, here’s a sampling of current timelines for some common cases we handle:

USCIS Petitions.  The California Service Center for US Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudicates most Washington State based petitions. They report relatively fast times for many common business petitions, and for the most part this is what I’ve observed of late. For example, they say they will adjudicate H-1Bs and E petitions in two months, and L petitions in 1 month. However, for a number of years now, the California Service Center has shown a propensity for issuing burdensome and time consuming requests for additional evidence. Nonimmigrant petitioners have the option of paying for premium processing, and receiving 15 day adjudication for the price of $1225. Sometimes this can be a prudent purchase, just to get guarantee a fast initial adjudication, and have the same 15 day response time in regards to any response to a request for evidence.

E-1 and E-2 Treaty Petitions in Vancouver. We help Canadian clients with a lot of E-1 Trader and E-2 investor visa applications at the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver. Timelines here tend to be a few weeks, but really can depend on where the business is at and acquiring necessary documentation up front.

TN Petitions.  NAFTA TN professional applications can be submitted at the border, pre-flight inspection, or via the USCIS Service Center. CBP will adjudicate a TN petition on the spot. Adjudications vary, but the timeline doesn’t get any better. USCIS publishes that it will take one month to initially adjudicate a TN petition.

Prevailing Wage Determinations.  Initial prevailing wage requests for H-1Bs and PERM applications take between 45 and 60 days. Long gone are the days when we could get a wage determination in a day, or even a week or two. If the employer disputes the wage determination, a request for a redetermination can be filed, but these are taking about the same amount of time to adjudicate.

Labor Certifications. Initial analyst review for PERM application for labor certifications are taking about six months. The Department of Labor’s website today says that as of September 3, the agency was conducting review on cases received on February 28th, 2013. If an audit request is issued, review of that audit request will take about a year under current processing timelines.

Nonimmigrant Waivers.  I-192 nonimmigrant waivers for Canadians are taking about 5 months, though it can really vary. U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s website says to wait over 130 days before making inquiry into the case.

Immigrant visas in Montreal. The immigrant visa process was taking nine months to a year through Montreal, but recent processing time reports from USCIS suggest this timeframe may be slowing down. If so, perhaps we’ll see more people interested in filing for the K-3 visa, which in the past used to be a way to reunite cross-border couples faster.

Naturalization. Naturalization applications are moving very fast, generally speaking. We’re seeing waits of two to four months in most cases from time of filing to taking the oath of naturalization.

As I said, you can’t trust the published timelines of an agency as to adjudication timelines, though sometimes they are worth noting and are sometimes spot on. For USCIS’s latest timeline, visit here.  For the Office of Foreign Labor Certification’s latest published timelines, visit here. And, for the Department of State’s interview wait time at Consulates around the world, visit here.