When applying for a visa or a green card, sometimes it can take longer than the processing times recommended by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Many people do not know that they can contact their congressional representative to speed up their visa processing time. Members of Congress usually have one or more staffers liaising with the federal agencies that are responsible for immigration processing and enforcement, including USCIS, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the US Department of State (DOS). Although they cannot force the agencies to make a particular decision or reverse a denial, they can put a spotlight on a case by their involvement.
What cases will congressional inquires make a difference in?
Circumstances where congressional inquiries can make a difference include the following:
- When cases are still pending beyond regular processing time
- When unusual circumstances call for expedited adjudication
- In situations where USCIS may have made a mistake that needs to be corrected
- When a visa appointment needs to be expedited
- When a case is placed in administrative processing
- To make emergency appointments in closed consular offices
- When consular offices are refusing to provide other updates
US Customs and Border Patrol Issues
- To apply for national interest waivers
- To apply for national interest exemptions from COVID-19 issues
- To find out how different consular posts are handling different kinds of circumstances
What steps do I need to take before I reach out to my congressional representative?
Here are the steps to follow before reaching out to a congressional representative:
- Make sure your case is filed and received with USCIS and assigned a receipt number. You can find it on the notices of action USCIS has sent you.
- After the case is received it is processed according to the listed USCIS processing times. Each case type processes differently and processing times vary depending on the USCIS service center handling the case. In most cases, standard processing times are several months to years. Cases within normal processing times do not normally qualify for congressional help. You can use your receipt number to track your case on the USCIS website
- If the case has gone beyond the listed processing time for the service center where your case is being processed, you can then submit a case inquiry directly with USCIS. In most cases, your representative will not be able to assist if your case is both outside normal processing times and USCIS fails to act on your properly submitted case inquiry. Keep a record of all inquiries to provide your representative when seeking assistance.
- The purpose of the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman’s Office is to improve the quality of citizenship and immigration services by providing individual case assistance, identifying systemic issues, and making recommendations to improve the administration of immigration benefits through USCIS.
- If you have followed the above steps, and the case still remains pending with no action, you can then seek congressional assistance.
After following the steps listed above, and you decide you would like to reach out for congressional assistance, then you will need to find out who your congressional member is in the House of Representatives. You can find out who your congressional representative is by entering your zip code on the U.S. House of Representatives website.
How do I contact my congressional representative for assistance?
Once you have identified who your congressional representative is, you can reach out to them via email, phone, or through their website. It is advised to avoid reaching out to multiple representatives at a time because it may cause unnecessary delays. Most representatives have a “Services” or similar section on their website. Under this section, you should be able to find “Help with a Federal Agency.” If you’d rather contact them by email or phone, email is the optimal way to communicate with their office unless there is an emergency in which case a phone call is best. You can find your representative’s office contact number and email online.
For privacy reasons, a congressional office cannot contact a federal agency on your behalf without your permission. To authorize the congressional office to make an inquiry about your visa processing, you will need to fill out a privacy waiver. You can usually do this online, through the member’s website.
Though the waiver forms vary, generally you will need to provide:
- Information about your case, including what sort of visa you applied for, where you applied, and the dates you applied
- Any relevant case numbers, such as your 13-digit USCIS case receipt number and your A-number, if applicable
- Your full name, date of birth and address
- A description of the issue
- Details of what you have done before to resolve the issue
- Any other key documents, such as USCIS receipt notices or agency correspondence
What comes next?
Usually, USCIS will respond to congressional inquiries within 30 days if the request was sent through email, or by the next business day if the congressional office made a phone call. It is important to note that although congressional assistance can be helpful in some cases, it does not necessarily mean the process will be expedited.
If you have any questions about when or how to reach out to your congressional representative, contact our office today. We would love to hear from you.