The Vermont Service Center appears to be processing the O-1 visas extremely slowly of late. Processing times have slowed down from 2-3 weeks to around 8 weeks and more. We have also noticed an increase in the number of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) being issued. An RFE is exactly what it sounds like: USCIS issues a request for further evidence and issues a deadline of 90 days for our office to reply (although it can take a couple of weeks for us to receive the RFE). This can slow down your case processing time by four or five months, as it may take 2 – 3 months to prepare all the required documents for the response with you and then it can take USCIS anywhere from 2 weeks – 2 months to issue a final decision..
Many of these questions on the RFEs concern the “leading” and “principal” roles of performing artists who are part of a group. Others appear to target cases with a lot of foreign-language materials, especially Asian and other languages that do not use Roman characters. In other words, the fact that adjudicator cannot read the applicant’s name in the original documents appears to cause uncertainty, in spite of the fact that comprehensive translations are provided.
From the content of the RFEs, it seems that these are new adjudicators with little experience and do not understand the guidelines for an O-1. We have heard through the grapevine that many of the former adjudicators have retired and new adjudicators are being trained. We are advising clients to hold off on filing their cases until the adjudicators have more experience. We are hopeful that once the adjudicators are “broken in,” processing times will revert to 2-3 weeks and there will be fewer RFEs issued. Please check back here for updates