After you've filed the necessary petition and mountains of supporting documentation, paid the required fees, and received a notice that your petition has been received (as well as your fees), what's next?
Unfortunately, no step in the long process will be as swift as the collection of the fees, which is usually done within days or weeks of submitting a petition. You may be waiting for several years with very little information concerning the progress of your case.
This leaves the beneficiary of your petition in a legal limbo, being forced to keep their old life going indefinitely while simultaneously attempting to prepare themselves for an eventual new life in the United States.
However, there are a few things you can try to find some kind of information about.
What are your options for finding information about your case?
Unfortunately, it's difficult to get specific information about an individual case, unless there's a problem. When an issue arises, you will receive a notice from USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Services), the immigration section of Homeland Security, to provide additional documentation to support your petition.
When you receive a RFE (Request For Evidence), you must gather the requested documentation as soon as possible to avoid further processing delays. Send all documents by certified mail to ensure that they were delivered, and to prove that they were received. Lost documentation is not an anomaly in these cases, due to the massive amount of paperwork that is processed by USCIS.
You can always get non-specific information from USCIS to ensure that your petition is still being processed and not lost in the shuffle.
Over the phone
You can call them and provide basic information such as the beneficiary's name, the petitioner's name, and the case number (this can be found on the receipt form that is sent when your petition is received by USCIS.
While they cannot determine when processing will be completed, they can assure you that it your case is being processed. You will likely begin to have your doubts after years of waiting for processing to be completed.
You can enter the receipt number on the Case Status Online page provided by USCIS. While this too provides only basic information, it can be reassuring to know that there are no known issues and processing is ongoing.
You can look up processing times for different types of petitions at various processing centers. This may give you a general idea how long to expect to wait for your application to be processed.
You can speak directly to an immigration officer in person by booking an appointment with a feature called Infopass. You will need to go to the nearest federal building with immigration services to meet with an officer.
Unfortunately, you cannot get any more specific information about your case than you can find online, but if you have trouble navigating the website, this is a welcome service.
Contact your U.S. senator's office
If your case has lingered beyond the normal processing times that are provided on the USCIS website, you can ask one of your two U.S. senators for help. They will have someone in their office who handles immigration matters for their constituents.
This is a somewhat complicated process, as the office does communicate directly with USCIS. They contact an intermediary who contacts USCIS, then relates the replies from USCIS back to the office.
This is one method that is able to provide specific information abut your individual case, but it can only be used if your case is already outside of the approximate processing times listed on the USCIS website.
You can always contact an immigration lawyer in your area, such as The Law Office of Israel S Hernandez, PLLC, if your case is not being processed within stated processing times. An immigration attorney is familiar with all of the processing issues affecting potential immigrants and their families, and can use their knowledge and experience to challenge USCIS to perform their services in a fair and timely manner.