Green Card

Green Card: useful tools

Green Card Status Approved
The status confirming my Green Card was approved and the actual card produced

The wait for the Green Card can be stressful. Due to some visa restrictions applied by the previous administration, the Covid-19 pandemic, and my Green Card status, I was not allowed to leave the country for about three years. Knowing that if something were to happen in my professional life during this time, I would have been in big trouble. Here is a list of tools I’ve used during this time to stay informed and sane.

How to check your Green Card case status online

This is the website I visited every day, twice a day, for well over a year, pretty much since I filed my I-485. Here you can check all your applications or petitions: I-129, I-140, I-485, I-131, I-765, etc.

How does it work? To check your status, follow this link and add your 13-character receipt number from the application or petition receipt notice. You should expect to receive this receipt about two to three weeks after you submit your immigration application to USCIS. Store these receipts in a safe place cause they’ll be needed during the process.

The 13-character receipt number is made up of three letters followed by 10 numbers. The three letters identify the USCIS service center that is processing your application – mine was LIN, Nebraska Service Center – and the numbers are a combination of Fiscal Year + computer workday on which USCIS opened your case + a unique case number assigned to your case.

You can create an account with USCIS and they will notify – most of the time – if any action is taken regarding your case.

Anytime the status changes, you will feel like Christmas came earlier

Check your status online here

USCIS notification of action
USCIS will notify you of any change or action taken

Ask Emma

Emma is an online virtual assistant, named after Emma Lazarus, who wrote the poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty about helping immigrants, that can answer your immigration questions. Emma is While Emma can provide immediate responses to your questions about all of USCIS’s services, it may not be able to answer specific questions related to your case. If you are particularly insistent on speaking to a live agent, Emma may transfer you to one after a few minutes if you keep asking.  I’ve chatted with Emma a couple of times and I spoke to an agent twice. I believe you can even call USCIS at 800-375-5283 – but I’ve never tried.

Contact Emma from here

USCIS Emma virtual assistant
Meet Emma the USCIS virtual assistant

Processing Times

The “processing time” is based on how long it took USCIS to complete 80% of adjudicated cases over the previous six months. Each case is unique, and some cases may take longer than others. These processing times should be used as a reference point. If your processing time is longer than these processing times you see on the USCIS site, it doesn’t mean your case is outside normal processing time. You can submit inquiries only if your case is outside normal processing times.

So how do you know if your case is outside normal processing times? To know if you are entitled to raise an inquiry, go to the USCIS website, select your form (e.g. I-485), form category (e.g. employment based), and the office that is processing your case (e.g. Chicago, IL). After that, scroll down to “When is your receipt date?” and add your receipt date. A pop-up will appear telling you whether your case is processing normally and when is the earliest you can submit questions.

Check the Green Card processing times here

Change of Address

You must keep your address current to ensure you receive all correspondence and avoid delays related to your case. I didn’t have to use it, but I know a few folks who did. It is a pretty straightforward process.

Start here to notify your address change to USCIS

Reddit r/USCIS

This is not an official USCIS tool, but it is a great forum with tons of applicants participating, sharing information, hopes, and, in short, trying to support each other by comforting whoever is in a dark place while waiting and cheering whenever someone moves forward towards the final goal. Just bear in mind that despite most people honestly trying to support, the vast majority of contributors are not immigration lawyers. I tried other forum, even specific to immigration but Reddit was the one I kept going back.

Here is the USCIS sub Reddit

Apps to track your case

I subscribed to at least one of the most popular apps that claim to give you estimates of when you can expect your case to be processed. Well, they don’t really work. They simply do not have enough volume to be statistically significant. Want to use the free option? Go for it. Pay for the upgraded version? Waste of money in my opinion.

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