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Getting a green card can be thrilling but usually takes a long time. A green card, also called a Permanent Resident Card, lets you live and work in the U.S. permanently. So, how long does it take to get a green card? The timeline varies greatly depending on the type of green card, your relationship with your sponsor, and whether you’re applying from within the U.S. or from another country.

In this blog, we will break down the different factors that influence the green card process and provide some examples to help you understand how long it might take for you to receive your green card.

Also Read: How To Apply For Umrah Visa From India?

The Green Card Process: Step-By-Step Process

The green card process can be divided into several steps. Let’s explore these steps to get a clearer picture of the journey:

Step 1: Determine Your Eligibility

The first step is to determine which category you fall into. The most common types of green cards are family-based, job-based, and humanitarian (like refugee or asylum status). Each category has its own requirements and processing times.

Step 2: Filing the Petition

If you are applying for a family-based green card, a family member who is a U.S. citizen or a green card holder must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on your behalf. For employment-based green cards, your employer files Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.

Step 3: Waiting for USCIS Approval

After the petition is submitted, it is sent to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for evaluation. USCIS will process your petition and may ask for additional evidence if needed. The time it takes for USCIS to approve the petition can vary.

Step 4: Applying for the Green Card

If you are in the U.S., you can apply for a green card through a process called Adjustment of Status (AOS) by filing Form I-485. If you are outside the U.S., you will go through consular processing and file Form DS-260.

Step 5: Attending the Interview

You will likely be required to attend an interview either at a USCIS office (if you are in the U.S.) or at a U.S. consulate or embassy (if you are abroad). During the interview, an officer will ask you questions about your application and background.

Step 6: Receiving the Green Card

If everything goes smoothly, you will get approved for a green card. It will be sent to your U.S. address or given to you at the consulate.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Green Card?

The type of green card you are applying for significantly affects the processing time.

Family-Based Green Cards

  • Spouses of U.S. Citizens: If you are married to a U.S. citizen and living in the U.S., it takes about 10-23 months to get a green card. If you are living outside the U.S., it takes about 13.5-15 months.
  • Spouses of Green Card Holders: If your spouse is a green card holder, the process is longer, taking about 29-40 months regardless of whether you live inside or outside the U.S.
  • Parents of U.S. Citizens: Typically takes about 1-2 years.
  • Minor Children of U.S. Citizens: Also takes about 1-2 years.

Employment-Based Green Cards

  • Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers: Processing times can range from 1 to 3 years.
  • Priority Workers: These include individuals with extraordinary abilities, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives. Processing can be faster, taking about 1 year.

Humanitarian Green Cards

  • Refugees and Asylees: These can vary widely, but generally, it takes about 1 year after being granted refugee or asylum status to apply for a green card.

Other Factors: How Long Does It Take To Get A Green Card?

Sponsor’s Status

  • Whether your sponsor is a U.S. citizen or a green card holder also affects the processing time. U.S. citizens can often sponsor their relatives faster than green card holders can.

Applicant’s Location

  • Where you are applying from—inside or outside the U.S.—makes a difference. Adjustment of Status (AOS) from within the U.S. can sometimes be quicker than consular processing from abroad, but this is not always the case.

Country of Origin

Some countries have more applicants than others, leading to longer wait times. For example, citizens of Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines often experience longer wait times due to high demand.

Additional Evidence

If USCIS requests more evidence to support your application, this can delay the process. It’s important to provide thorough and accurate information when you apply to avoid delays.

Real-Life Examples

To give you a better idea of how long it might take to get a green card, let’s look at some examples:

Example 1: Spouse of a U.S. Citizen Living in the U.S.

Maria is married to John, a U.S. citizen. Maria is currently living in the U.S. They filed Form I-130 and Form I-485 concurrently. It took USCIS 5 months to process the I-130 and another 10 months to process the I-485.

Maria had her interview after 15 months and received her green card 2 months later. In total, it took Maria 17 months to get her green card.

Example 2: Spouse of a Green Card Holder Living Outside the U.S.

Ahmed is married to Fatima, a green card holder. Ahmed is living in Egypt. Fatima filed Form I-130, which took 8 months to be approved. After that, Ahmed had to wait another 16 months for a visa number to become available. 

Once available, Ahmed went through consular processing, which took an additional 6 months. In total, it took Ahmed 30 months to get his green card.

Example 3: Employment-Based Green Card for a Skilled Worker

Lily is a software engineer from India. Her employer filed Form I-140 on her behalf, which took 9 months to be approved. Afterward, Lily had to wait for a visa number to become available, which took another 18 months due to high demand from India.

Once her visa number was available, she filed Form I-485, which took 10 months to process. In total, it took Lily 37 months to get her green card.

Tips: How to Speed Up the Process?

While some factors are beyond your control, there are a few things you can do to help speed up the green card process:

  • Submit Complete and Accurate Applications: Ensure all forms are filled out correctly and all required documents are included. Incomplete or incorrect applications can lead to delays.
  • Respond Quickly to Requests for Additional Information: If USCIS asks for more evidence, respond as quickly as possible. Delays in providing additional information can slow down the process.
  • Track Your Application: Check your application status on the USCIS website. This keeps you updated and helps you quickly handle any problems.
  • Consider Concurrent Filing: If eligible, file Form I-130 and Form I-485 at the same time. This is available for spouses of U.S. citizens and can save several months.
  • Seek Professional Help: Think about getting help from an immigration lawyer or a service like Boundless. Their expert advice can help you avoid mistakes and delays.

Conclusion

How long does it take to get a green card? Getting a green card is a significant milestone, but it requires patience and understanding of the process. The time it takes to receive a green card depends on several factors, including the type of green card, the sponsor’s status, the applicant’s location, and the country of origin.

By understanding these factors and following the tips provided, you can better navigate the green card process and move closer to your goal of becoming a permanent resident of the United States.

Remember, the green card process can be complex and sometimes frustrating, but staying informed and proactive can help you achieve your goal. Good luck on your journey to obtaining your green card!

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