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Green Card Processing Times

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February 16, 2022

Key Takeaways

The amount of time it takes the U.S. government to process lawful permanent resident applications depends on different factors. The kind of green card you’re applying for, the type of family relation your application depends on, and where you are applying from, all directly impact how long it will take to get your card. More recently, the covid-19 pandemic has increased wait times for green cards significantly. This article explains how much time it takes on average to get different types of family-based green cards from start to finish. We also include how you can check your green card case status at any time during the application process.

Table of Contents

Start-to-finish timelines for family-based green cards

If you’re ready to adjust status and get a family-based green card, you should note that the process can take some time. The total wait time will depend on your specific situation. This includes the type of family relationship - whether your sponsoring family member is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, your home country, where you are applying for a green card, and whether U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) needs additional information. Processing times can also depend on the particular USCIS office’s backlog.

The following sections will describe the average timeline to get a green card, depending on the immediate relative relationship your application relies on. 

Marriage green cards

If you are filing an adjustment of status application to obtain a marriage green card, your timeline 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. 

If your spouse is a U.S. citizen and you currently live in the United States, it will take on average 10-13 months to get your permanent resident card. This process is slightly faster because you can file Form I-130, “Petition for Alien Relative,” and Form I-485, “Application for Adjustment of Status,” simultaneously. You can also apply for a work permit and advance parole travel document 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 generally takes 11-17 months to get your green card. 

If your spouse has permanent resident status, you will have to wait for a green card to become available after your spouse files Form I-130. You will find out when your priority date appears in the State Department’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 in the United States, your case processing time will generally be 29-38 months. 

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. 

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. 

Green cards 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 typically takes the same as 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).

Green cards for parents of U.S. citizens

For parents of U.S. citizens, the process usually takes 10-13 months. Like for spouses of U.S. citizens, there is no limit on the number of green cards. Therefore, you can generally get a green card based on your parent relationship within one year. 

Green cards for siblings of U.S. citizens

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, 20+ years for citizens of Mexico, and 24+ years for citizens of the Philippines. 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 determine where you submitted your application. 

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 by entering your application receipt number in their online case status tool. You can also call USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. You will need to provide your receipt number, the 13 character code that consists of three letters followed by ten numbers. It will appear at the top left corner of your receipt notice given from USCIS when you submitted your application. 

Suppose you applied from outside of the United States through 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. You can check online by entering your immigrant visa case number in the State Department’s online visa checker tool. You can also call NVC at (603) 334-0700. Your immigrant visa case number has 14 characters, with three letters followed by 11 numbers. You can find this number on the welcome letter NVC sent to you.

Conclusion

Applying for a green card can be complicated, but working with a good immigration lawyer can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your green card case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!

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