How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?

How long does it take to get a Green Card?

If you’re seeking permanent residency in the US, one of the first questions you’ll likely ask is, “How long does it take to get a green card?”. Understanding the timeline is crucial for any immigrant planning to move to the US. In this article, we’ll explore the factors that influence the application process, the various green card categories, and the essential requirements for obtaining a green card.

What is a Green Card?

A green card, or permanent resident card, allows immigrants from various countries to live and work permanently in the United States. It also makes them eligible for government jobs, provides protection under US law, and allows them to sponsor family members for green cards. Additionally, green card holders can apply for U.S. citizenship after meeting residency and other requirements.

Obtaining a green card can be tedious and overwhelming, with fluctuating application categories, native country considerations, and other factors. In such situations, it’s wise to hire a qualified immigration attorney to navigate the process seamlessly.

Understanding Green Card Categories

1. Family-Based Green Cards

  • Immediate Relatives: Green cards for immediate relatives are specifically for spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens. This category enjoys faster processing times, often less than a year, due to the absence of annual caps.
  • Family Preference Categories: These green cards are for extended family members, including siblings, married children of U.S. citizens, and certain relatives of permanent residents. Unlike the green cards available for immediate relatives, these green cards have an annual limit, which makes the wait time longer, typically from a few years to decades, depending on the applicant’s application category and native country.

2. Employment-Based Green Cards

  • Priority Workers (EB-1): EB-1 green cards are for individuals with extraordinary science, arts, education, or business abilities. This category gets leverage on the waiting time due to high priority and fewer applicants.
  • Professionals with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Abilities (EB-2): EB-2 green cards are for individuals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in their professional fields. Processing times vary based on demand and visa availability.
  • Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers (EB-3): This category includes skilled workers having a minimum of two years of experience, professionals with a US bachelor’s degree or equivalent, and unskilled workers. The demand for an EB-3 visa is much higher, leading to longer processing times, often a few years.
  • Special Immigrants (EB-4): EB-4 green cards are for special groups such as religious workers, employees of U.S. foreign service posts, retired international organization employees, and certain other unique categories. Processing times can vary widely based on the specific subcategory.
  • Investors (EB-5): EB-5 green cards are for individuals investing in a new business that creates at least 10 full-time jobs for US workers. The processing time for an EB-5 visa is usually less (1-3 years), depending on the amount of investment and job creation criteria.

3. Diversity Visa Lottery

The Diversity Visa Lottery allocates up to 55,000 green cards annually to individuals from countries with low immigration rates to the US. Shortlisted applicants must complete documentation quickly to secure their green cards, as slots are limited.

4. Asylum or Refugee Status

Individuals granted asylum or refugee status in the US can apply for a green card after one year. This process addresses their need for protection and provides them an opportunity for permanent residency in the US.

5. Other Special Categories

There are additional categories that grant green cards to vulnerable individuals, including immigrant juveniles, victims of crime, and human trafficking survivors. Processing times and prerequisites vary based on the legal provisions specific to each category.

With various types of green cards, each having distinct requirements and application processes, it’s crucial to understand your specific category when determining how long it takes to obtain a green card.

Factors Influencing the Timeline

1. Category of Application

  • Immediate Relatives: The process of issuing a green card for an immediate relative of an existing green card holder usually has a shorter wait time as there’s no annual limit. The applicant may expect it to be done in less than a year.
  • Family Preference Categories: As these are subject to annual caps, the wait time is longer, ranging between a few years and a decade, depending on the applicant’s home country and application category.
  • Employment-Based Categories: Various visas are available based on employment, and the wait time varies depending on the visas’ availability.
  • Diversity Visa Lottery: After being selected via the diversity visa lottery, the process takes nearly a year to complete.
  • Asylum or Refugee Status: Processing can take years due to the complex vetting and backlog.

2. Country of Origin

Countries with many applicants (e.g., India, China, Mexico, Philippines) often face longer wait times due to country-specific quotas and higher demand.

3. USCIS Processing Times

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing times vary by service center and application load. It is advisable to regularly check the USCIS website for updates.

4. Accurate Documentation

Incomplete or inaccurate documentation can lead to delays. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that all the necessary documents are correctly submitted to avoid processing delays.

5. Changes in Immigration Policy

Changes in immigration laws or policies can impact processing times, sometimes causing significant delays or expedited processing depending on the political and administrative situations.

How to Accelerate Your Green Card Application Process?

While an applicant cannot control their application process, certain measures can be taken to ensure that nothing goes wrong from the applicant’s end.

  • Cross-check all the forms and documents before submitting them to ensure they’re correct and complete.
  • If USCIS asks for additional documents, stay attentive and be prompt in responding to avoid unnecessary delays.
  • In case of urgency, you may opt for premium processing for an additional fee. This will escalate the processing time.
  • Hire a qualified immigration attorney who can guide you through the complexities of the entire process and help you out.

Securing Your Green Card

So, how long does it take to get a green card? The answer varies depending on factors such as application category, native country, visa availability, immigration policies, and other considerations.

Start your journey toward a US green card today by consulting with our immigration attorney today. Whether you need assistance with documentation or understanding your eligibility, our team is here to guide you through every step of the process.

Get in touch!

Do you need more information? We're here to help!

Share this

Scroll to Top

Get a Free Consultation!