Why is my H-4 and H-4 EAD Taking So Long and What Can I Do?

So many U.S. immigration processes are taking longer than expected these days, and the H-4/H-4 EAD processing is no exception. We’ve received lots of questions over the past few months about why it’s taking so long and what you can expect. Here is a run down of what’s going on with H-4 and H-4 EADs.

General H-4/EAD Processing Steps:

In general, the next steps after we file the H-4/EAD are:

  • Receive receipt notices – usually within 3-4 weeks of filing
  • Receive appointment notice for fingerprinting – usually within 6-8 weeks of filing; however, USCIS is backlogged with fingerprinting, and it’s possible that this would be delayed further. That is not unusual.
    • Attend fingerprinting
    • Please note that if you have previously had fingerprints taken by USCIS, USCIS will sometimes apply those fingerprints to this subsequent filing, so that you don’t have to have them done again. The fingerprints must have been taken by USCIS, not another agency like the Dept of State.
  • The H-4 extension (or change of status) application is approved.
  • Then the H-4 EAD is approved.

Current USCIS Processing Time: The current USCIS case processing time for H-4 extensions is 5.5 – 7.5 months, per the USCIS website. Please note that this is an estimated processing time. Your particular case may take less time or more time, and this processing time is subject to change.

Tools to Check the Status: The Sumner Immigration Law team tracks the status of each case we file to ensure that cases are processed within estimated processing time. Therefore please do not feel like it’s up to you to track the status of your case. However, we find that often clients want as much information as possible about the status of their case, which is certainly understandable. If you would like to look up the status of your case yourself, you can use these tools:

USCIS Processing Times: You will need to select the form (I-539 for the H-4; I-765 for the EAD) and the processing center. If your receipt number begins with EAC, your case is at the Vermont Service Center. If your receipt number begins with NSC, your case is at the Nebraska Service Center.

Case Status Online: You can use this tool to enter the receipt notice for your case to track the case status with USCIS. Please note that USCIS does not always update the case status in a timely manner. On this page, you can also create an account. If you do this, you can sign up to have USCIS email you when there is a change in your case status (we do this for all cases that we file).

Options for Expediting:

Many clients have asked how they can expedite their H-4 or H-4 EAD processing.

  • At this time premium processing is not available for H-4s. It is supposed to become available soon, but USCIS has not announced when this will occur.
  • Until premium processing is available, it is possible to place an expedite request. Our experience is that expedite requests are approved only in limited circumstances when compelling evidence is provided. Please also note that USCIS cannot accept an expedite request until fingerprinting is complete.
  • Our office is only able to assist with expedite requests for cases that we have filed.

Other Tips:

  • Do not compare: It is only natural to talk to other people who are going through the same or similar process. It would be logical that each case would follow a similar timeline. However, logic does not always apply in immigration law. Cases go to different service centers, are processed by different officers, and have different factors that affect processing time. Just because a friend filed later and his case is being processed “faster” doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with your case or that it’s delayed.
  • Change of address: If you move, please let us know! It is critical that you timely notify USCIS of the change of address so that you properly receive notices and approval documents. We can help you with this.
  • File early! Often an H-1B employee cannot control when their employer initiates the H-1B extension process, but it’s worth letting your employer know why filing early is important for your family’s H-4 processing.
  • Keep the faith! This is a trying time to process anything in the world of U.S. immigration. Let us know what questions you have, and keep the faith that this too shall pass!

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 U.S. and around the world. You can call us at 804-396-3412 or send us an email to info@sumnerimmigration.com. We look forward to hearing from you.