USA and the UK
Green Card Processing Times
A green card is an identification document (permanent resident card) that proves you have the right to live permanently in the U.S. Your green card application may be processed between 7 to 33 months.
The types of green cards include family-based green card, marriage-based green card, employment-based green card and returning resident immigration visa. The type of green card you are applying for, the location of the processing office, and other factors will all affect how quickly your application is processed.
However, within 30 to 90 days of arriving in the country, immigrants who had their green cards authorized before coming to the U.S. should receive them in the mail. It’s possible for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to wait up to 120 days to mail the green card, although it’s quite uncommon for this to happen.
The 120-day window to mail your green card starts on the day you paid the filing fees. Not the day you entered the country, if you pay them after entering the country.
A separate timeline applies to immigrants who apply for a green card through adjustment of status while already present in the country. The USCIS officer conducting your green card interview should notify you at the conclusion of the interview whether your application has been approved or denied, but this rarely occurs.
- Green Card Processing Times
- Family-Based Green Cards: Categories of Family-Based Green Card
- What Are the Eligibility Criteria for Sponsoring a Family-Based Green Card?
- What Are the Eligibility Criteria for Foreign Nationals – Family-Based Green Card?
- Requirements for Family-Based Green Card
- Processing Time for Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens [Family-Based Green Card]
- Processing Time for Other Family Members of U.S. Citizens [Family-Based Green Card]
- Processing Time for Family Members of Lawful Permanent Residents [Family-Based Green Card]
- Expedited Processing for Green Cards
- Adjustment of Status and Immigrant Visa Applications
- How can IAS Help?
- Frequently Asked Questions
One of the most popular ways to become a U.S permanent citizen lawfully is by getting a family-based green card. The U.S green card is only issued to a limited number of people yearly, this is why its process is not as straightforward as people think.
Family-based green cards can be divided into two categories. They include the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and the family preference category.
This second group (family preference category) consists of specific, more distant family members of U.S citizens and a select few of specific members of the family who are lawful permanent residents. There are four subgroups in it, F1, F2, F3, and F4.
Immediate Relative Green Card
For two major reasons, this category of family-based green card enjoys a higher preference over other categories. One of the reasons is that there is no annual limit as long as the sponsor and applicant are eligible. The other reason is that unlike other categories, immediate relative applicants need not to worry about the green card waiting queue.
As soon as the I-130 petition is received by the USCIS, the adjudication procedure begins. The green card will become available as soon as it is approved.
The immediate relative green card are categorized below:
- IR-1. Spouse of a U.S. citizen.
- IR-2. An unmarried child of a United States citizen under the age of 21.
- IR-3. An orphan who is adopted abroad by a citizen of the U.S.
- IR-4. An orphan who will be adopted by U.S. citizen in the United States.
- IR-5. Parent of a United States citizen who is at least 21 years of age.
Family Preference Green Card
Contrary to the immediate relative category, there are several limitations on these visas under the family preference category. The processing time for family-based green cards is greatly influenced by these limitations.
For instance, there is an annual limit on the number of immigration visas awarded under each subcategory of the family preference. Other applicants in that category will have to wait until the following fiscal year after this number is reached.
Priority date is the date your petition will be reviewed. The family preference green card has the following categories:
Family First Preference (F1)
This applies to American citizens’ unmarried sons and daughters as well as their younger children. Each year, 23,400 visas are granted to applicants in this category.
Family Second Preference (F2)
This applies to spouses, minor children, and sons and daughters (age 21 and older) who are not married to lawful permanent residents. Annually, 114,200 visas are granted, and spouses and children typically receive up to 77% of the family-based green cards under the category. Unmarried sons and daughters will receive the remaining space in the subcategory.
Family Third Preference (F3)
Married sons and daughters of citizens of the United States are eligible for this category, along with their spouses and minor children. The yearly limit is 23,400.
Family Fourth Preference (F4)
This applies to American citizens’ brothers and sisters, as well as to their spouses and minor children. The petitioner (a citizen of the U.S.) must not be below 21 years old. The yearly limit for this category is 65,000 visas.
What Are the Eligibility Criteria for Sponsoring a Family-Based Green Card?
You must meet the following criteria in order to sponsor a family-based green card. You must:
- Be a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen and provide relevant documentation such as a green card or birth or naturalization certificate.
- Show that you have the resources to sustain the sponsored family member and all other household members who are your dependent. It is necessary to provide documentation of annual income that is at least 125% over the poverty line.
- Remain a U.S. resident.
- Demonstrate that you are related to the foreign national who will receive a green card in a qualifying family relationship. Being a spouse, birth or adopted kid, or sibling qualifies you as a qualifying relationship.
What Are the Eligibility Criteria for Foreign Nationals - Family-Based Green Card?
You must demonstrate that you have a qualifying family relationship with your sponsor and that you won’t become a public charge after you enter the United States as a foreign national applying for a family-based green card. This means that until you can support yourself, your sponsor will provide your financial needs.
You must not have issues that might prevent you from entering the United States in addition to the requirements stated earlier. The issuing of visas to people whose presence may endanger the tranquility, health, or general well being of Americans is prohibited by U.S immigration law.
Some of the factors that can make you ineligible for the U.S green card includes:
- Being a drug trafficker.
- Having a communicable disease.
- Having a substance abuse disorder.
- Being an illegal immigrant.
- Having a serious psychological or physical disorder.
- Being affiliated with a terrorist organization.
- Having past crimes in other parts of the world or in the U.S.
Requirements for Family-Based Green Card
The following general documents are required for processing green cards for both immediate relative and family preference sponsorship:
- Get your passport that is still valid for at least six months after the scheduled entrance date into the U.S.
- Bring an affidavit of support
- Get your birth certificate
- Provide your marriage certificate, if applicable
- Get your marriage termination documentation, if applicable
- Get your immigration medical examination form
- Bring your two passport photographs which must meet the DOS photo requirements.
Processing Time for Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens [Family-Based Green Card]
Visas are always easily accessible for applicants because there are no numerical limits for this category, which also guarantees a quick processing time of 9 to 13 months. The Immediate Relative (IR) beneficiary won’t need to wait in line for a visa number once the I-130 petition submitted by the petitioner (a U.S. citizen) is granted by the USCIS.
It should be noted that this category is only designed for spouses, unmarried children (under 21 years old), and parents of U.S. citizens. So, even if the child is less than 21, they will no longer be eligible for this category if they get married.
Processing Time for Other Family Members of U.S. Citizens [Family-Based Green Card]
While relatives of US citizens are given special treatment in the immigration processing system, individuals who do not fall under the description of “immediate relatives” must apply under a family preference category.
There is no immediate availability of visas for this group of people. The applicants will have to be patient until there is a visa number available for them when the I-130 is approved. This subcategory has a maximum 12 to 36 month wait time. Sometimes it could even take five to ten years.
Processing Time for Family Members of Lawful Permanent Residents [Family-Based Green Card]
If you are a U.S. permanent resident, have a green card, you may petition for your spouse or unmarried children to become permanent residents of the United States. But unlike a U.S. citizen, a green card holder is not allowed to petition for siblings, parents, or married children permanent residency.
The yearly visa limit for family members of people with green cards is 114,200. The second preference category (F2) consists of the following two subcategories, F2A and F2B:
- F2A: This applies to spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years old) of green card holders. A total of 87,934 (77%) out of the available 114,200 visas, go in this subcategory.
- F2B: This applies to green card holders’ unmarried children who are 21 years old and above. This subcategory is allocated the remaining 23% of visas in the F2 category.
The family-based green card applicants may likewise encounter a lengthy processing period of up to 12 months or more. And in extreme circumstances, it might last for up to 10 years. Processing times may take much longer if your application is flawed or incomplete.
Family-based green card applicants can typically expedite the processing time by requiring the petitioner to correctly file the I-130 petition and provide all necessary paperwork. However, this will just impact the I-130 petition.
Beneficiaries who are F2A applicants have another choice. The process can be sped up if the sponsor becomes a citizen while they are still in queue for a green card. In this scenario, your sponsor must write to the National Visa Centre to declare that they are now citizens. This will open the door for the processing of your green card application as an immediate relative of a citizen of the United States.
However, there are things you should do to speed-up your green card process. They include:
Ask for Expedited Processing
When appropriate, you may request that your application be processed more quickly. To seek this, you must provide documentation of the emergency that justifies the expedited procedure as well as the necessary documents. For instance, someone who needs a family-based visa before they may enter the United States for a desperately required surgery may be eligible for an expedited procedure.
Know the Normal Timeline for Your Green Card or Visa
You should know the usual wait time for your green card. With this information, you’ll be able to tell when something is taking too long. After that, you can visit the relevant departments and inquire about the status of your case. You may even track the development of your application by looking at case processing times.
Preparing Your Green Card or Visa Application Carefully
One of the best pieces of advice you could ever receive is this – you have to make sure that everything is accurate and on time. Each form you submit must be filled out completely and accurately. If the information is incorrect, the USCIS will either request more information from you or, even worse, deny your application entirely. This will extend the time it takes for processing by several weeks, if not months.
Adjustment of Status and Immigrant Visa Applications
If you are already in the United States, you’ll need to petition the USCIS as soon as a visa number becomes available for you in order to change from your existing non-immigrant status to an immigrant permanent resident status.
To change your status and obtain your green card, you must submit Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
The processing time for the I-130 application submitted by your sponsor typically ranges from 6 to 12 months. The petition is handled by the USCIS in a first-come, first-served manner.
By turning in the application as soon as possible, your sponsor can hasten the procedure. The form must also be submitted correctly, with all necessary supporting documentation included.
The USCIS will send a Request for Evidence (RFE) notification if any documents are missing. Your application process will be delayed and take longer to process as a result of the documents needing to be submitted.
Immigration wait periods have risen in recent years. It’ll only be better for you to apply for your green card carefully to avoid unwarranted rejection.
There are currently millions of people waiting for green cards, and all signs point to the number continuing to rise. Besides that, processing times may take much longer if your application is flawed or incomplete.
You can also expedite the procedure and prevent delays with the aid of a family-based green card attorney guidance. This is why we recommend you reach out to our immigration lawyers.
They are experts at appropriately handling green card applications and advise you on the necessary things you’ll need to expedite your green card application process.
If you have other questions you want answered about how long it takes to get a green card or immigrant visa application contact us. You can do so by calling us on +1 844 290 6312 or contact us online for immediate assistance for more information.
Last modified on May 18th, 2023 at 7:54 am
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