It is very likely that anyone who has had a case filed and pending with USCIS has used the online status check and has also checked the “normal” processing times for the type of a case they have had filed. Many of our readers are well aware of these two resources and we encourage following the information posted on the website.
Recent Issues with Inaccurate Processing Times Reports
Over the past few months, we have seen an increasing number of cases
for which the processing times reports do not reflect accurate case
status. In other words, the processing times reports have been
inaccurate, in some cases, substantially so. For example, when USCIS
processing times indicated that H-1B cases are processed within 3
months, we have seen a number of cases which had been pending
well above this time period.
USCIS has addressed some of these concerns and have taken steps to
correct the way the processing times are gathered and reported to ensure
higher quality data. Recent internal investigations by USCIS have
revealed that some of the processing times are simply being reported
incorrectly. For example, the Texas Service Center had inadvertently
been processing cases out of their receipt order, thereby deviating from
their standard first-in/first-out policy. We are assured that this
deviation has been corrected.
How Are Processing Times Determined?
The USCIS calculated processing times are intended to be a reflection
of the number of months of application/petition receipts that an
office’s inventory of pending cases represents. For example, a 4
months processing time reported for a service center indicates that the
inventory of pending cases (waiting to be processed) was equal to the
number of cases that the center had received over the past 4 months. This means that the processing times are somewhat backward looking in
the sense that they do not necessarily reflect how long a new case would
USCIS also shows the online processing times based on workload
processing goals. If USCIS is processing a specific type of a petition
in less time than the processing goal, the processing time would be
shown in months. If USCIS is taking longer than the processing time
goal to handle a case, USCIS will post the specific filing date of the
oldest pending case the service center has to process as of the date of
the processing time chart.
USCIS’s methodology in calculating the processing times is as
follows: USCIS only calculates the time a case is considered to be
actively pending with USCIS and is under adjudication. It does not
take into account the time USCIS is waiting or an action by the
applicant or petition. As an example, the time is takes for USCIS to
issue and wait for a response to a request for evidence (RFE) (usually
84 or 87 days), is not reflected in the processing times.
USCIS Working to Provide More Recent Processing Times Information
Another substantial problem with the processing times report is that
the data is simply very old. Often, by the time a processing times
report is published online, it is already 30-, 45- or even 60-days
old. USCIS has indicated that it works with its internal IT and
Performance and Quality Departments to try to speed up the information
gathering and reporting process.
According to USCIS, the current
process of gathering the processing times information is manual and
based on self-reporting. USCIS is working on a new system which should
allow automated, accurate and faster reporting. The system is
currently being tested and is scheduled for implementation in early
fiscal year 2013.