We Address Unreasonable Green Card Delays

small picture of attorney bill henry
By: Bill Henry
PublishedAug 11, 2022
3 minute read

Applying for a green card is a long and arduous process, and delays come with the territory. However, this does not mean that the U.S. government can keep your application in limbo indefinitely. Federal law requires the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to adjudicate your green card application within a reasonable time. Read this article to learn how a Colorado immigration attorney can help if you are experiencing unreasonable green card delays.

Bottom Line

If the USCIS has allowed your green card application to languish for months or even years, you can file a lawsuit in a U.S. district court asking a judge to order USCIS to adjudicate your application.

Are You Experiencing Unreasonable Green Card Delays?

If so, you’re probably feeling understandably frustrated. You may be unable to find a job, travel freely, or reunite with your family. The Robinson & Henry immigration attorneys will help ensure USCIS follows the law. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your case assessment, o lláme al 720-359-2442 para hablar con alguien en español.

unreasonable green card delays

The Administrative Procedure Act

The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) is a federal act that governs the process by which federal agencies develop and issue regulations. It also grants U.S. federal courts oversight over all federal agency actions:

A person suffering legal wrong because of agency action, or adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of a relevant statute, is entitled to judicial review thereof. 5 U.S. Code Services § 702

In other words, the APA allows you to file a lawsuit requesting that a district judge order USCIS to make a decision regarding your green card application.

Reasons for Green Card Delays

Millions of people submit U.S. green card applications each year. Delays, while frustrating, are normal.

As of August 2022, the average processing time for a green card application ranged from 15.5 to 40 months, depending on which type of green card you are seeking. source: USCIS website

You can track your green card application status online here.

Resolving Unreasonable Green Card Delays

When determining whether the USCIS has subjected you to unreasonable green card delays, a district judge must consider:

  1. the extent of the delay
  2. the reasonableness of the delay in the context of the legislation authorizing agency action
  3. the consequences of the delay, and
  4. administrative difficulties bearing on the agency’s ability to resolve an issue.

Qwest Communications International Inc v. Federal Communications Commission, 398 F.3d 1222, 1239 (10th Cir. 2005)

Let’s look at one Colorado case.

Background: A Refugee Seeks a Green Card

In April 2002, Lebanese refugee Sami Al Karim submitted his green card application. Al Karim disclosed on his initial refugee application that he had been a member of the Iraqi Dawa Party in the ‘80s. The Dawa Party had been designated by the U.S. government as a “Tier III” terrorist organization.

Al Karim’s Application is Put on Hold

Under prior law, Al Karim’s past Dawa Party membership would likely have led to the denial of his application and his removal from the U.S. However, shortly before the FBI completed its background check on Al Karim, Congress expanded the Secretary of Homeland Security’s discretion to grant green cards to immigrants associated with certain terrorist groups.

Therefore, the USCIS placed several green card applications on indefinite hold, including Al Karim’s. His application remained pending in April 2008, six years after he initiated the process.

Al Karim Files Suit

Al Karim filed a complaint in a Colorado federal district court. U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn found that:

the legal limbo in which plaintiff daily finds himself has caused him great stress and anxiety. The indefinite nature of the delay in adjudicating his application has real and not insubstantial effects on plaintiff’s life and livelihood, including limitations on his ability to travel, potential negative consequences on his legal status as a refugee, and the financial and bureaucratic burdens of regularly filing travel and work applications. Perhaps most critically, the delay of the final adjudication of plaintiff’s application necessarily delays his goal of becoming a U.S. citizen.

Sami Al Karim v. Holder, Civil Action No. 08-cv-00671-REB (D. Colo. Mar. 29, 2010)

Judge Blackburn ordered the USCIS to make a decision regarding Al Karim’s application within 30 days. He further ordered the USCIS to notify his court of the outcome within 14 days of the adjudication.

Let Us Help You Resolve Unreasonable Green Card Delays

Some lag time is normal in most bureaucratic processes. However, you do have the right to receive an answer about your green card application within a reasonable time.

Our R&H immigration attorneys will file a petition on your behalf asking the district court to compel the USCIS to keep up their end of the bargain. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your case assessment, o lláme al 720-359-2442 para hablar con alguien en español.

More Than Just Lawyers. Lawyers for Your Life.

Learn more about our law firm’s philosophy and values.