Tracking Your Petition
In response to each filing, USCIS provides an I-797 filing receipt that directs the petitioner to the USCIS website to determine average processing times and to track individual petitions. It is unclear how accurate or up-to-date the average processing time estimates are. Moreover, these processing time ranges do NOT take into account the time needed: for the service center to print and mail the approval notice after approval is entered into the computer; for the petitioner (not the artist) to receive that approval notice (especially if regular mail is used); for petitioner then to transmit the approval notice to the artist abroad; and, crucially, for the artist then to apply for and receive the visa through consular processing.
Petitioners can check average USCIS processing times and track the progress of individual cases online. It is advisable to create an account to request that USCIS automatically email any status updates. However, the only information about individual cases that is revealed online or by email is whether the case is in process, approved, or denied. Scrolling down in the same site will enable you to check average processing times at each service center. However, note that USCIS can be behind in updating the average processing times posted online, so the timeframes posted can be unreliable.
USCIS has in the past promised to speed up and improve the quality of regular O and P artist visa processing, striving to do so within an average of 14 days, but that goal is not binding. If a petition filed through the regular filing process exceeds the posted maximum processing times, USCIS encourages inquiring about the case online online. If there is an inquiry that cannot be resolved via the self-help tools, call the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 but be prepared to be directed to make an online inquiry through the site. The Contact Center has live agents available Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Eastern (excluding federal holidays). Knowing the average service center processing times is crucial because the operators are not permitted to provide additional support until the case is past due according to the currently quoted processing times. In short, what counts is the current processing time estimate by the service center for the particular type of petition or application. Make every effort to check average processing times online, but given how out of date those online reports are, do create a USCIS online account even if your petition has not exceeded the processing times online and be ready to initiate an inquiry as soon as you're able. If you phone the Contact Center, the operator may have more up to date processing information and may agree to help but will likely want to know that you tried the online applicant tools first. Also, please note that the process outlined above will not prevent a petitioner from immediately seeking to upgrade to Premium Processing Service at any point in the petition process.