Pre-pandemic: You file a visa application, in any category and USCIS would issue a receipt notice, Form I-797, Notice of Action as soon as they received your application. Read: three weeks tops.
Today: You file a visa petition, and you won’t know if USCIS has received it or not for many, many months. Read: 3+ months
Below we analyze the reasons why receipt notices are taking so long to arrive and what you can do to get it sooner.
Why Is An I-797, Receipt Notice So Important?
USCIS issues a Form I-797C, Notice of Action to communicate receipt or approval of an application or petition. They come in different formats and could also convey information related to notices of:
- re-open, and
- appointment (fingerprint, biometric capture, interview, rescheduled).
It is important to scan and verify the information provided within a Receipt Notice because it will contain important information regarding your immigration petition.
You should always keep a copy for your records, travel purposes as well as to send a copy for further processing of your immigration application.
The following information can be found in the I-797 Receipt Notice
- When USCIS accepts the application: The I-797 Receipt Notice will tell you about next steps and process to proceed.
- When USCIS rejects your application: you will know if it wall rejected or not filed appropriately, such as not using the latest form or forgetting to check a box on the application form.
- A receipt number, which can be used to check the status of your case either online or by phone.
- The date your application was received, which for most green card applications is the priority date. A priority date determines your place in line for a green card number to become available based on the green card category and the green card candidate’s country of birth.
Why Is USCIS Taking So Long To Issue Receipt Notices?
The Covid-19 pandemic put a speed-breaker for many processes. Staff reductions coupled with lockdowns led to mounting backlogs. This, in turn led to delayed issuing of the Receipt Notices. Applicants who normally received Receipt Notices in 3 weeks don’t hear back from USCIS for over 3 months.
In addition to this, USCIS also noticed a huge increase in application submissions. Petition filing fee hikes and rapid forward movement of green card priority dates in the monthly Visa Bulletin also led to and increase in a sudden surge in petition filings. This further added to the the backlogs for USCIS.
How Can You Get Your I-797 Receipt Notice Faster?
USCIS continues to issue receipt notices and is trying to revert to their 30-day schedule by clearing backlogs. Despite the delay in receiving the Receipt Notice, you can find out if your application was received by USCIS when the check that was sent to cover the application fees was cashed by USCIS.
To get your I-797 Receipt Notice faster, you can adopt the following procedures:
- Locate the case number at the back of the uncashed check;
- When filing an immigration application, include an E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (Form G-1145). This will allow you to receive receipt notification by email or text message from USCIS.
- Ensure all appropriate boxes are checked, all pages of a form included and signed and the correct fee amount submitted
- Consult an immigration lawyer
- Requesting a case review by the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS ombudsman) if no action has been taken on a case for more than 90 days.