In the past few years, the COVID pandemic and the chaotic political climate have taken their toll on many Americans. However, immigrants seeking legal work status in America have been particularly hard hit. It seems there is a constant backlog in the processing of forms by USCIS—and this includes the essential I-797 Receipt Notice.
The Purpose of the I-797 Receipt Notice
If you file an application or petition with USCIS, they will send you a communication that indicates that they have received or approved your paperwork. This communication is typically the I-797 form. Don’t be confused. This is not a form that you fill out; the USCIS uses it to communicate with you after submitting any sort of petition with them. The USCIS uses many different types of I-797 forms for various purposes. For instance, the USCIS uses I-797 forms to:
Inform you that they have received your paperwork or application while giving you a priority date and receipt number. These are incredibly important to remember and keep track of because the priority date (date received) establishes your place in line, and the receipt number is used to look up the status of your case going forward.
Give you instructions on what to do next for the duration of the application process. For instance, the form may tell you that further evidence is needed or that you must attend an interview or appointment before your application can be processed. Be sure the read through the entire form so you don’t miss this critical information.
Inform you that they have rejected your application. If the USCIS has rejected your application, the form may also tell you why and give you the chance to correct the mistake by refiling.
Inform you that the USCIS has approved your application.
As you can see, this form contains a great deal of critical information that you’ll need as your case progresses. This is why you should always verify the information on the receipt and keep a copy with your records and important information.
In the past couple of years, the speed with which the USCIS churns out I-797 receipts has slowed down dramatically. Frustration has been mounting as these valuable documents, which once took only a few weeks to receive, are now taking much longer. People are now waiting up to three months to get these critical documents.
Why Are I-797 Receipt Notices Taking So Long?
Not surprisingly, there are a number of different issues that have collectively caused a massive slowdown at USCIS.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
There is no surprise here, as most businesses have experienced a slowdown because of COVID. The USCIS is no different. Lockdowns and staff reductions have directly contributed to mounting backlogs. As the USCIS workers got back to their jobs and tried to clear the backlogs—more applications started pouring in and made the pile that much higher.
Large Increase in Application Submissions
USCIS also noticed a surge of applications in the recent past, further contributing to the backlog of cases. New policies and threatened rate hikes in 2020 resulted in many immigrants scrambling to get their paperwork in.
The Trump Administration
With the policies being proposed or voted on during the Trump era, his administration managed to put a chokehold on the US immigration system. Existing policies were made stricter, and other policies that were once largely ignored began being implemented. In addition, that administration began subjecting each new application to intense scrutiny. The smallest error was used as a reason to reject the application—often without giving the applicant a chance to fix the problem or produce the required evidence.
Furthermore, there was a steep hike in the scrutiny of H1-B and L1 visa requests by USCIS. This increased scrutiny resulted in a 55% increase in Request for Evidence(REFs) notices. Out of approximately 316,000 petitions, 85,000 were sent back asking the applicant to justify their qualification and specialty occupation status.
All of this has led to primary petitions for things like green cards and immigrant worker status to be processed at a 94% slower rate in 2020 than in 2014. The worst part is that these factors have not only created a never-ending backlog, but they have also separated families, caused economic hardships on workers and the organizations that depend on them, and created a shortage in skilled labor.
Getting Your I-797 Receipt Faster
The good news is that the USCIS is pushing to revert to its 30-day schedule by intently clearing up the backlogs. While you are waiting for your Receipt Notice, you can find out if your application was received by simply checking the date USCIS cashed your application fee.
To help expedite receiving your I-797 receipt, you can also:
Make sure that every appropriate box is checked and that all pages that need to be included are signed and attached along with the correct fee amount when submitting your application.
If you are filing an immigration application, include an E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (Form G-1145). This gives USCIS the ability to send your receipt notification by email or text instead of through the mail.
If you haven’t received any Receipt Notice for more than 90 days, request a case review by the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman.
And as always, hiring an immigration attorney to review your paperwork and ensure that your forms are properly filed can save you a tremendous amount of time and frustration down the road.
We Are Here for You!
We at The Jarbath Peña Law Group, want to help make your life easier. We know the burdens and stress that can accompany efforts to improve your immigration status in the US. We understand the seemingly endless red tape you are trying to muddle through, and we understand that there are times when you don’t think it will ever end.
But we can help!
We have experience in immigration law that can streamline the process for you and take the worry off of your shoulders. We can make sure that your paperwork gets filed properly and on time—every time. We will dot your I’s and cross your T’s so that your case doesn’t get unnecessarily delayed. In short, we can facilitate your application process while protecting your rights.
We are your South Florida immigration attorneys—so contact us today! You can set up your free initial consultation today by calling 305-615-1005 or through our online contact form. We look forward to putting our know-how to work for you!