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Understanding USCIS Processing Times

USCIS is the government agency responsible for processing naturalization applications (and other immigration forms). In order to handle the enormous volume of applications it receives, USCIS is supported by field offices across the United States.

Each applicant is assigned a field office based on their ZIP code, and therefore each field office also receives a different number of applications that directly affects its processing speed compared with other offices. USCIS publishes the processing wait times at each field office and updates the figures once per month.

The processing times are presented as a range between two numbers. For example, the processing time range for naturalization applications (Form N-400) at the Seattle, WA field office may be 15 to 16.5 months. The first number reflects “the time it takes to complete 50% of cases (the median),” while the second number refers to the completion time for 93% of cases.

The “national average processing time” referenced at the beginning of this guide actually reflects the first number in the range (the median) averaged across all USCIS field offices in the United States (as of April 2022), according to USCIS. This calculation of the national average resets every September.

It’s important to be aware that the backlog of pending U.S. citizenship applications has also grown in recent years, while wait times have been steadily rising. This underscores the importance of applying sooner than later if you’re eligible now.

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