As USCIS processing times continue to slow (seriously, can we talk about how a fiance petition went from 6 months in 2018 to over 14 months in 2022?!?) and people to continue to wait for years to get an interview for an immigrant visa at various U.S. Embassies and Consulates, I get a lot of questions from people about putting in an expedite request – that is, asking the government to make a decision on their case faster than on the cases that were filed at the same time. It’s essentially asking to cut the line. Sometimes you have to ask – like if you get a flat tire on the way to the airport and the security line is long and you’re going to miss your flight. But even if you ask, someone might block your way.

USCIS has very strict rules about granting an expedite request. Financial considerations are typically NOT a valid reason to get work card expedited. I hate it because I get it. You need a work card to work, to have a driver’s license, to live life. Thankfully, USCIS has allowed for automatic extensions in some cases, but for those who don’t qualify, waiting 7-10 months to simply be able to function in society is so very, very hard. I had a asylum applicant who ended up sleeping in his car with his young son because USCIS was taking so long to adjudicate his work card. He couldn’t work and pay rent, so he was evicted. With the help of a Congressional inquiry, we finally got him his card, but absolutely not have gotten to that level.

Missing your loved one is also not a valid reason. If I was separated from my fiance for more than a year, I would go crazy. Yet, USCIS takes over a year to adjudicate the I-129F. We have seen relationships fail because of the stress that separation brings and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. USCIS says that everyone misses their loved one, so what makes your pain and suffering any different than any other couple that’s an ocean apart. It’s cruel, but it’s true. They can expedite a case based on a lonely heart because if they did, every case would have to be expedited.

We have had limited success with requesting an expedited request for health reasons. But it has been extremely limited. We have a client with various major diseases (none fatal, thankfully, but they make her life extremely difficult), but USCIS has declined to expedite her husband’s waiver case because her health concerns aren’t fatal. I have had an expedite on a U granted for someone with a brain tumor, though. So it’s possible, but it has to be something of that magnitude to succeed.

You don’t get what you don’t ask for, though. If you find yourself in a situation where you need USCIS to adjudicate a case faster, you can ask them through the National Customer Care Center (1-800-375-5283) or through the Ask Emma chat feature on their website. Be prepared to not only explain the situation, but to have documents to back it up. If you’re asking for an expedite of an Advance Parole, for example, because of a dying grandparent, you’ll need a letter from the doctor explaining the situation.

We’ve been successful with major health-related requests, as well as for family of active duty U.S. military and for people with job offers with U.S. government agencies. Also, for family in certain countries, like Afghanistan, Ukraine, or Venezuela, it might be possible to get an expedite of an I-130, for example, based on country conditions. Grants are rare, but they’re not impossible!

I am usually an optimist and want people to have hope, but when it comes to expedite requests, I have just been burned too many times to have a lot of hope left. You can try, I am happy to try for you and will give it my very best effort, but I want to be realistic with expectations.