In a previous post, we mainly covered processing and wait times for different types of immigrant applications. Immigrants are non-citizens in the U.S. who are looking to make the U.S. their permanent home. Non-immigrants, however, are usually temporary residents who have conditionalities and expiration dates placed on their visas. As such, non-immigrant processing encompasses totally different forms and therefore different processing times as well.
If you are interested in non-immigrant processing times, you will still need to relocate to the USCIS eGov Processing Times website. The link is available here: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/.
One of the main petitions that should be looked for those interested in non-immigrant status is the I-129 Petition for a Non-immigrant worker. On the dropdown menu, this application is right near the top of the list. This application is processed at the California, Nebraska, Texas, and Vermont service centers. However, not every service center will adjudicate the same classification of visa being requested.
Let’s take a look at which service center processes which types of non-immigrant visas under the I-129 Petition:
The California Processing Center handles the following temporary employment based visas:
- L Visas (for Intracompany transferees)
- E-Treaty trade investor visas
- H1-B visas to be issued abroad (consular processing), H1-B as a change of status processed domestically in the U.S., and H1-B extension of stays (EOS)
The Texas Processing Center does all of the above except E treaty trade visas, and the Nebraska Processing Center only adjudicates H1-B extension of stay applications. In addition, the Vermont Processing Center handles H1-B applications, L treaty visas, as well as specialty visas for Australian Nationals seeking employment in the U.S.
Every processing center seems to be able to accommodate H1-B applicants (or EOS applicants) fairly quickly with a processing time in the range of 2-4.5 months.
Changing Non-Immigrant Status
The longer wait times that are more typical for USCIS processing definitely occur for those who are interested in applying for an I-539, Application to Change/Extend Non-immigrant status. This could be the case for a non-immigrant who is already in the United States and wants to change to an F or J status to attend university in the U.S. without leaving the country. It could also be a vice-versa case where a student has finished their studies at a U.S. based university and is now applying to change their non-immigrant status for the purpose of employment.
Regardless, looking at the processing times across the Texas, Nebraska, and California Service centers, the average wait times for an I-539 application is between 9 and 12 months. This has to do with the fact that in order to make a successful change of non-immigrant status, or to extend ones non-immigrant status, the USCIS is responsible for running a background check on the applicant. Particularly for non-immigrants who have already been in the U.S., this background check slows down the process as a third party agency (the FBI) is doing an extensive job checking the applicants record their entire stay in the U.S.
Overall, the longest wait times occur for non-immigrants who are seeking to extend their F or M student non-immigrant visa with a wait time of 12 to 16 months at the Vermont Service Center, 9.5 to 12 months at the Nebraska Service Center, and 10.5 to 14 months to change their status to F or M student visa when processed at the Texas Service Center.