Green card (lawful permanent resident card) processing times depend on several factors. There are several different green card categories. The two broadest are employment-based green cards and family-based green cards. Your green card category, your employment or family relationship that makes you eligible, and where you are applying from all impact how long it will take to get your green card. Backlogs with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also play a role. This article focuses on how much time it takes, on average, to get different types of family-based green cards. We will look at the application process from start to finish and include information on how to check your green card case status during the process.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Updated April 30, 2023
Start-To-Finish Timelines for Family-Based Green Cards
The process of adjusting status and getting a green card can take some time. The total wait time varies based on each individual’s situation.
There are five main factors that influence family-based green card processing times:
Your relationship to your sponsoring family member — if they are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
Your home country
Where you are applying for a green card from
Whether U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) needs additional information
Because these times can vary quite a bit in different categories, we’ll look at the average timeline to get a green card based on your relationship to the petitioner.
Remember: The beneficiary is the person who will receive the green card. The petitioner is the person who sponsors you when applying for the green card.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Marriage Green Card?
If you are filing an adjustment of status application to get a marriage-based green card, the processing time will depend on whether your spouse is a U.S. citizen or a U.S. permanent resident. It will also depend on whether you live in the United States or not.
If your spouse is a U.S. citizen and you currently live in the United States: It's currently taking 18-22 months for USCIS to issue permanent resident cards. (Bookmark our Marriage Green Card Processing Time article for weekly processing time updates.)
This process tends to be the fastest because you can file Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative and Form I-485: Application for Adjustment of Status at the same time. This process is called concurrent filing. You can also apply for a work permit and a travel document (known as Advance Parole) to use while you wait to receive your green card.
If your spouse is a U.S. citizen and you currently live outside the United States: It’s currently taking 12.5-26 months for USCIS and the NVC to issue marriage green cards. (Bookmark our Marriage Green Card Processing Time for Spouses Abroad article for weekly processing time updates.)
If your spouse has permanent resident status: It’s currently taking USCIS an average of 18 months to process Form I-130. Then you will have to wait additional time for a green card to become available for you. You will find out when your priority date appears in the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin.
After that, you can apply for a green card from within the United States or at a U.S. consulate abroad. It generally takes about two years for a green card to become available, and the whole process can take three years. It may take longer for citizens of Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines.
If your spouse is a green card holder and you currently live outside the United States… You will have to wait about 23-32 months or longer to get a green card.
How Long Does It Take To Get Green Cards for Children?
For minor children of U.S. citizens (children under age 21): The entire process will generally take 10-13 months. There is no limit on the number of immigrant visas for children of U.S. citizens who are younger than 21. After beginning the immigrant petition process, they can usually get a green card in a year or less.
For minor children of green card holders: The process usually takes 23-38 months. They will have to wait for a green card to become available after their sponsor files Form I-130. They can apply for a green card within the United States or abroad. However, they fall into the same eligibility category as spouses of U.S. green card holders, so generally, the USCIS processing times are shorter.
On average, it takes about two years for a green card to become available and three years total to get permanent resident status. It may take longer for citizens of Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines because they have a much higher volume of green card applicants annually.
For unmarried, adult children of U.S. citizens: The process may take 7-8 years. However, one disclaimer — if you are a citizen of the Philippines, it may take 10+ years. If you are a citizen of Mexico, it may take 20+ years. Adult children of U.S. citizens must wait for a green card to become available after their parent files Form I-130. The backlog can be significant.
For unmarried, adult children of green card holders: The process may take 8-9 years. However, if you are a citizen of the Philippines, it may take 10+ years, and if you are a citizen of Mexico, it may take 20+ years.
For married, adult children of U.S. citizens: The immigrant visa application process may take 13-14 years. However, if you are a citizen of the Philippines or Mexico, it may take 22+ years.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Green Card for Widows of U.S. Citizens?
For widows of U.S. citizens, the process may take 10-13 months. Generally, widows and widowers can apply for immigrant status within two years of their spouse’s death. The processing time for widows is similar to the processing time it takes for spouses of U.S. citizens. However, instead of filing Form I-130, you should file Form I-360: Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.
If your spouse already filed an I-130 petition for you that got approved before they died, you won’t have to file Form I-360. You just have to inform USCIS of your spouse’s death, so they process the rest of your application as a widow(er).
How Long Does It Take Parents of U.S. Citizens To Get a Green Card?
For parents of U.S. citizens, the process usually takes 10-13 months. There is no limit on the number of green cards issued in this category. Therefore, you can generally get a green card based on your parent relationship within one year.
How Long Does It Take Siblings of U.S. Citizens To Get a Green Card?
The process usually takes 14-16 years for siblings of U.S. citizens. However, it depends on your home country:
For citizens of India, the process can take 16+ years
For citizens of Mexico, 20+ years
For citizens of the Philippines, 24+ years
Only parents, spouses, and minor children categories of green cards have no annual limits.
How To Check Your Green Card Application Status
To check your immigration application status, you need to know which USCIS field office or service center is processing your application. This is usually the same as the office you send your application to, but sometimes USCIS does transfer cases to a different office. If this happens, you should receive an official notice via mail from USCIS.
If you submitted your application from inside the United States, it should be with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You can check your status online using USCIS’s case status tracker tool or you can call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
Either way, you’ll need your application receipt number to check your case status. This is a 13-character code that consists of three letters followed by 10 numbers. You can find it on the top left corner of the receipt notice USCIS sent you after it received your application.
What if You Are Applying While Outside of the U.S.?
If you are outside of the United States when you apply for your green card, you’ll use consular processing. In that case, USCIS will first process your application and then send it to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). From there, NVC will send it to the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest you.
Once your case is with the NVC, it will send you an immigrant visa case number. Your immigrant visa case number has 14 characters — three letters followed by 11 numbers. You can find this number on the welcome letter NVC sent to you. You’ll need this number to check your application status using the U.S. Department of State’s online . You can also call NVC at (603) 334-0700.