When an application or a petition is "pending", it means that it is at the Immigration office waiting a decision.  Some Immigration offices (such as Service Centers or Administrative Appeals Office) publish lists providing information how long it takes them to process any type of application or petition.  But sometimes, an individual applicant or petitioner realizes that his or her own waiting time is more - even much more - than the normal, expected waiting.  What to do then?

Sometimes the long waiting is because the Priority Date is still not "current": A "visa number" is still not available for this individual immigrant.  In such a case, there is nothing to do but wait.  But if the delay is clearly not due to Priority Date issues, it might be a good idea to try and figure out why is the Immigration Office delaying a decision?

  A delay could be because of a "security check."  There was a "hit" on the name of the applicant, petitioner or beneficiary in one of the many data-bases that must be queried before a decision can be made.  Now the file sits on somebody's desk until the officer has time to do the manual research necessary: Was the "hit" real or just a coincidence?

  A delay could be because of an overseas investigation: The officer wants to verify certain details or information relevant to the case: Prior marriages?  Prior work experience or education?  Prior applications?  This requires the assistance of the American Consul overseas - and this take extra time.

  A delay could be because the case is hard to decide: Eligibility depends on an obscure point of law, or an expected change of legal interpretation.  The Field Office is waiting for new guidelines from the Central Office.

A delay could be because the Immigration officer simply does not like the case.  He or she knows that the case cannot be denied, but it upsets the officer to approve such a case.  So, the case becomes pending...pending...pending.

 Whatever the real cause for the delay, what can be done to get a decision?

 Follow-ups and inquiries through the Customer Service system; again and again;

 Follow-ups and inquiries through the INFOPASS system, if the case is pending at a Field Office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS); again and again;

 Complaint to the Ombudsman of the CIS;

  Requesting the Congressmember representing the District of the petitioner (or another American Citizen interested in the case) to send a Congressional inquiry to CIS;

  Filing a Mandamus type lawsuit against the U.S. government in Federal District Court - but only as a last resort, if the waiting time is really too long and no reasonable explanation is provided for the "hang up."

However, before embarking on heroic steps to shake the case loose and to get a decision, an experienced immigration lawyer should give the applicant or the petitioner strategic advice: Is it really a good idea to push for a decision?  If a denial seems probable - why push for it?  A denial could trigger a Notice To Appear (NTA) in Immigration Court for a Removal (Deportation) case.  Why push for it?  ( To read more about Immigration Court - click here ).

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