One of the most common questions that we receive from our clients is about case processing time. The USCIS and DOL estimated case processing times are available online, but that source can be frustrating as they sometimes give a wide range of timeframes. You will find below a summary of the current timelines that our team is seeing for common case types in employment-based immigration:
Prevailing wages: In 2020, we saw the the processing time for prevailing wage requests hovered around 4-5 months. We are now seeing that these are taking longer, with our current prevailing wage requests pending for over five months. Our current estimate for the timeline to receive a prevailing wage determination is around six months.
PERM Labor Certifications: The PERM labor certification applications that we filed in July are still pending with DOL. The estimated time for PERM processing is now over 7 months
H-4s and H-4 EADs: The processing time for H-4s and H-4 EADs depends on which USCIS Service Center is processing the application. Based on our experience, the Nebraska Service Center is processing cases that were filed in July 2020. The Vermont Service Center seems to be processing cases that were filed in April and May, 2020.
H-1B petitions: Similar to H-4s, the Nebraska Service Center is moving quicker and processing cases filed in November 2020, while the Vermont Service Center seems to be processing cases filed in September, 2020.
As you can see, immigration-related processing times have slowed down over the past year or so. The slow down is likely due to multiple factors including the ongoing pandemic with reduced staff working in the office and frequent changes in regulations and policies that affect the adjudication of these cases.
What Should I Do Now?
- First, as always, we recommend that you file your immigration case as early as possible. You can file the H-1B extension and H-4 extension up to 180 days before the current status expires. If you file early, you reduce the chance that you will be stuck in a situation where you cannot obtain the driver’s license renewal, or where your H-4 spouse is unable to keep working.
- If you are waiting for a prevailing wage determination for a PERM case, carefully consider, with your immigration lawyer, when to begin recruitment for the PERM labor certification. This is a strategic decision that your immigration lawyer can and should help with. Sometimes PERM employers will choose to wait for the prevailing wage determination to begin recruitment. In other cases, there is a specific reason that it’s better to begin recruitment while the prevailing wage request is pending. However, you don’t want to start recruitment too early and have it expire before you can file the case, because the prevailing wage request took so many months. Again, speak with your immigration lawyer to come up with a plan.
- If you are working on H-4 EAD, keep in mind that you cannot continue working unless you have the H-4 EAD in hand. That is, you cannot keep working while the H-4 EAD renewal is in process, unlike certain other types of EADs.
- Do not compare your case to others and immediately come to the conclusion that something is wrong with your case. One of the best ways to unnecessarily stress yourself out is to talk to friends or coworkers, or to read forums online about case processing times. While that can be a way to get a sense of overall processing times, please keep in mind that there are so many variables in cases including where your case was filed (we cannot choose where to file; it’s dictated by USCIS or the other government agency with jurisdiction over the filing), when your case was filed, which particular officer has your file and whether they have been out of the office unexpectedly, and any number of other factors. As frustrating as it is, it simply is not possible to accurately compare your case to that of other people. If you are concerned about case processing time, certainly contact your immigration lawyer. We are here to help guide you and help you understand what’s happening with your particular case.
- Finally, please keep in mind that the above processing times are estimates based on what we are seeing in our practice. They are not official processing times, and they are of course subject to change over time.
If you need help navigating this process with confidence, please contact us today to get the process underway! We are immigration lawyers in Richmond, VA but we serve clients throughout the US and around the world. You can call us at 804-396-3412 or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.