Good things come to those who wait, as the saying goes. But sometimes waiting for the USCIS to act could cause significant hardships. Perhaps your naturalization application has been delayed, and you’ve been waiting well beyond the normal processing times just to get an interview. Or, maybe your spouse’s immigrant visa application has been pending in the “administrative processing” black hole at the U.S. Consulate abroad. When facing such a situation, you may make inquiries to the USCIS Customer Service line, or in person at your local USCIS office. Or perhaps you’ve requested assistance from your local Congressional Representative, or from the USCIS Ombudsman’s office. But what can you do when, despite your best efforts, your case remains “stuck?”
You may want to consider filing a particular kind lawsuit in Federal District Court – a mandamus action. Mandamus actions can be used to force the government to perform a duty that it owes to you. Federal agencies like the USCIS and Department of State are obligated to either approve or deny applications that are filed with them. For example, if your green card application has been pending for several years, you could file a mandamus action to force the USCIS to make a decision. Or if your spouse’s immigrant visa application has been pending at the US Consulate overseas for a long period of time, you can file a mandamus to force the Department of State to act.
How long must you wait before filing a mandamus action in district court? There is no bright-line rule, and the answer will depend on the facts and circumstances of your individual case. The Court will try to balance the government’s interests with the harm caused by the delay. It will consider things like whether your case is beyond stated USCIS processing times for similar cases; whether there is a risk to a person’s health or safety; whether you are facing the loss of employment; or whether a child is aging out. In reality, many of these cases never get to a hearing before a federal judge because the simple act of filing the lawsuit will prompt the USCIS to move forward on the case.
With a mandamus action, it is important to understand that the federal judge cannot force the USCIS to approve your case, only to make a decision. We’ve helped many people who are tired of seemingly endless delays get a decision on their case and move forward with their lives. If you’re interested in speaking with an attorney about a mandamus lawsuit in your case, schedule your case evaluation appointment today.