Last Updated on October 24, 2023
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is experiencing delays in issuing receipt notices for some petitions and applications filed at a lockbox facility. To assist applicants, the agency has provided updates on the status of its lockbox operations and the reasons for the delays. Additionally, USCIS has offered tips for applicants to reduce the likelihood of encountering a delay.
Frequently asked questions about USCIS lockbox services
What is a USCIS lockbox?
USCIS operates its lockbox service to receive and process applications and payments. USCIS has three lockbox facilities located in Chicago, Illinois; Phoenix, Arizona; and Lewisville, Texas.
Which applications are affected?
USCIS notes that application delays vary based on application type and lockbox location. Applications that encounter the most significant delays include:
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status; and
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization for F-1 Students.
How long are the lockbox delays?
USCIS delays in issuing receipt notices vary by location and application type. Individuals should check the corresponding USCIS Lockbox Updates Website for additional information on current lockbox delays at the closest facility.
What causes lockbox delays?
Each year, USCIS processes over 6 million applications. The sheer volume of applications USCIS receives at its lockbox facilities is one cause for delays in issuing receipt notices. However, the agency notes that other factors are contributing to delays this year, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions, corresponding reduced postal service volume, an increase in application filings and other external factors.
Will USCIS address the issues causing the delays?
USCIS is taking some measures to reduce delays in issuing receipt notices. Staff are working longer hours at lockbox facilities to process applications, provided they are permitted to do so based on local health and safety restrictions due to COVID-19. The agency is also redistributing its workload to reduce processing delays.
What can applicants do to avoid processing delays?
While most of the reasons for USCIS’s delays are due to internal factors and extenuating circumstances, the agency has some recommendations to avoid processing delays.
Recently, USCIS has transitioned to providing more services online, including providing the option to file select applications electronically. Processing delays can be avoided by filing online rather than submitting paper applications to the agency. There is also an option to receive electronic correspondence about application’s status, which can be done by opting in to receive text messages and emails from the agency. In order to make it easier for immigration legal teams to prepare applications, individuals should make sure all personal identifying documentation is current and accurate.
General information for filing an application
To ensure a smooth application process, USCIS has general tips and guidelines for submitting an application or petition:
- Applications must have the correct fee in order to be processed. USCIS notes that incorrect fee payments are one of the biggest reasons for application processing delays.
- Applications must include the proper signatures. Applications that do not have the proper signatures will be rejected.
- Consider using photocopies of required documents. Unless otherwise specified, USCIS does not require original documentation for applications. If original documents are not mandatory, it is best to submit copies of the originals. If USCIS loses an application, it is much easier and less time-consuming to replace copies of documents than to replace originals (i.e. birth certificates, photo identification, affidavits, and declarations). Applicants should also make a photocopy of their payment method to show that they have paid the correct fee.
- Submit before the deadline. Since USCIS is still experiencing processing delays, the agency recommends submitting an application well before the deadline.
Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Suann Kessler, who is an attorney at Corporate Immigration Partners, one of the two U.S. law firms Envoy exclusively works with on the Envoy Platform (the “U.S. Law Firms”).
Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. Envoy is not a law firm, and does not provide legal advice. If you would like guidance on how this information may impact your particular situation and you are a client of one of the U.S. Law Firms, consult your attorney. If you are not a client of a U.S. Law Firm working with Envoy, consult another qualified professional. This website does not create an attorney-client relationship with either U.S. Law Firm.