Behind the Wait: Unpacking the Factors Slowing Down Immigration

Every year, our immigration lawyer in Queens NY gets a lot of inquiries from foreign nationals looking to work and live legally in the US. Many of them express concerns about delays in their applications, which understandably leads to significant stress and worry. Some of them want to start preparing their application with USCIS but are hesitant because of the potentially long wait.

Here at Berd & Klauss, PLLC, we recognize how these delays can disrupt your plans — whether it’s reuniting with family or starting your legal work in the US. To help you manage your expectations and prepare adequately, we want to explain the common factors that contribute to these extended processing times.

What’s causing the delays?

Each year, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the State Department go through millions of applications. Most of these immigration applications are processed within reasonable timelines, but some encounter extended wait times. Here are the most common reasons for these holdups:

Reason #1: High volume of applications to review

High application volume leads to backlogs and processing delays, especially during busy seasons. The situation can worsen when policy changes trigger surges in applications — particularly when resources and staffing capacities are not adjusted according to the increasing demand. The State Department and USCIS also still rely on older technology and inefficient legacy systems, which can further slow down processing times.

Our immigration lawyer in Queens, NY, often recommends submitting applications during less busy times. They will work with you to ensure that your application and supporting documentation are accurate and complete.

It’s also important to stay up-to-date with changes in processing times by looking at the USCIS’ official updates.

Reason #2: Multi-agency reviews

In some cases, multiple agencies need to review certain immigration applications, making the process even more complicated (especially if any one agency works slowly). An application may be cross-referenced for these reasons:

  • Security concerns
  • Special approvals (e.g., those that require interdepartmental coordination between the Department of State, USCIS, and intelligence or law enforcement agencies)
  • Extensive background checks

Every agency has specific timelines and protocols, and a procedural slowdown or backlog in one authority can delay an application’s overall processing. That said, multi-agency reviews are crucial for maintaining the security and integrity of the immigration process. 

Reason #3: Misplaced or lost applications

Although uncommon, lost, misplaced applications within the USCIS system can result in significant delays. This is often due to:

  • Clerical errors
  • Data entry mistakes, misrouting paperwork
  • Mishandling while physical files are being transferred between departments

When an application is missing or misplaced, agencies must track them down, and this slows the processing for that particular document and the others in line. If an agency cannot find the missing documents, they will notify the applicant and ask to resubmit their information, further extending the wait time.

To minimize risk, we recommend keeping copies of your submitted documents and confirming their receipt by the respective agencies.

Reason #4: Additional requests for information

While processing applications, USCIS may realize that an applicant has provided insufficient information. To address this, they will issue a Request for Evidence or RFE. This essentially pauses your application until you provide the requested documentation to clarify any discrepancies or prove your eligibility.

If you get an RFE, be sure to respond to it quickly while ensuring correct information. Keep in mind that failure to respond by the deadline could result in the denial of your application.

Reason #5: Background checks

Background checks are crucial aspects of the immigration application process. They ensure you won’t pose security risks before you’re granted residency or entry into the US. These checks are conducted by multiple agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and international law enforcement bodies, and involve several tasks, such as looking into the applicant’s immigration history, checking security watchlists, and cross-referencing against criminal records.

This phase can cause delays and significantly prolong processing times, usually due to factors beyond your or the USCIS’ control. These factors include high volumes of checks, delayed responses from external agencies, or issues with verifying the data provided by the applicant.

Reason #6: Old-school documentation practices

Despite advanced technologies, the USCIS still relies on paper files, and this significantly delays immigration applications. Most of the immigration process is still paper-based, requiring staff to maintain, review, and transfer physical documents between facilities and departments. Besides increasing processing times, this system also increases the likelihood of documents being misplaced or difficult to locate quickly.


Delays in immigration processing can be frustrating, but knowing the reasons why they happen can help you prepare and manage expectations.

If these delays persist or involve complex issues, consider meeting an immigration lawyer in QueensNY, at Berd & Klauss, PLLC. We’ll provide the necessary guidance according to your unique needs and situation. Call 212-461-7152.