Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why So Long For A Visa?

A commenter asked, and led me to wondering as well: Why does it take so long to get an immigrant permission to come and live in America?

First off, it cannot and is not a function of being short staffed. Here is how you can tell that: Look at these 2 charts borrowed from the excellent visa site, It shows how many days it is taking for fiancee visa applications and spouse visa applications to be processed:

Now, if the USCIS were short staffed, the lines on the graphs would be travelling constantly upward; the wait would get longer and longer as they got further and further behind. So that's generally not the case, especially with the K1 visa, and obviously would not be a sustainable situation. The variations (especially with the K3 visa) would probably be more of a function of an increase in the number of applications submitted 300 or 280 days prior that are causing the increase in waiting time for visa processing.

A second query is — assuming that a visa application submitted to the government obviously is not immediately taken care of upon arrival... in other words, the government does not actually require 284 days of work to process my wife's visa application — how long does it actually take to process a visa application? How long does it take, from the moment my wife's visa application is opened to be considered and processed by some lady sitting at a desk to the moment she slaps a big "approved stamp" on it? Hours? Days?

Of course, I think it would be safe to also assume that there is some waiting-in-line time while background checks are done on my wife that takes a few days or a week or two. But really, no matter how you look at it, it is not hard to figure out that my wife's visa application will be sitting in the USCIS In Box for the better part of 3 or 4 months before anybody takes more than a cursory look at it.

So, the question to be asked is: Why does every visa application sit around for 3 or 4 months before being processed? It's not a function of "being behind" because the USCIS is not falling behind. They are obviously at a visa-processing equilibrium; they just keep a 3-month-tall pile of visa applications on hand all the time, apparently on purpose.

According to, there were approximately 13,000 K3 and 28,000 K1 visas issued in 2009. Based on a 5 day work week (260 days per year), that is 50 K3 and 108 K1 visas approved per day. Assuming a 3 or 4 month backlog (65–87 business days), you are talking about a total backlog of 10,000 to 14,000 K1/K3 visa applications nationwide.

Really, is such a large — but consistent and purposefully maintained — backlog of visa applications necessary? The USCIS people obviously are not doing it for job security reasons. I doubt they are worried that they might suddenly run out of applications and have to leave work early, such that they keep a backup in case there is a 3-month gap where nobody wants to come to live in America.

It really must be simple government bureaucracy. Willful, carefully maintained, pointless, government bureaucracy.

Well, anyway, let's just hope that I got Epril's visa in quickly enough before Congress sacks 3 or 4 visa processors and the time I have to wait to welcome my wife to America with a big hug goes up another few months.


mbubus said...

It took my fiancee a total of 4 months from the time I've sent the application to the time she arrived in US.
I hope you will not to have to wait any longer.

Jungle Jil said...

Oh wouldn't that be nice. Unfortunately, the website uses the dates put in by its members (of which there are hundreds) to keep track of visa processing times.

In other words, all of the members who submitted their I-129F 284 days ago for a K3 visa are just now receiving their approvals (and they are notifying the website of that fact).