How Long Does the Green Card Petitioning Process Actually Take?

When you finally qualify to apply for a green card, you will probably be counting down the days until you hear back and can finally receive that much-desired document. Which is why one of the most frequent questions we get is, “How long does the green card application process take?!”

As you can probably guess, the times vary based on the case specifics. One factor that determines how long it takes is the relationship to the sponsoring family member. For immediate relatives of United States citizens, the application process can be as short as 6 – 12 months. It also depends on whether you are adjusting status in the United States or having to process through the consulate outside of the United States. For those cases, the waiting time is normally longer. For other categories that fall under “family preference”, it depends. As there is currently a backlog for certain family categories, this will impact the timing of your application.

With that in mind, you might want to know what you can to do make the process as expedient as possible and know where you stand:

  1. File as soon as you can. The date your petition is filed is called your priority date, and within your category, it determines the order your application is processed in. So, as soon as you are eligible to apply, you should submit your application to get your place in line.
  2. Make sure your application is complete. If your application is missing any information or supplementary materials, USCIS will either send the entire package back to you or just request the missing part. As you can imagine, this will slow down your application, so it is best to avoid this by overpreparing. Photocopy everything before you submit your application so that you have proof that you submitted everything, and also so you do not lose any valuable documents.
  3. Don’t change anything about your situation. Just because your application has been submitted does not mean you are out of the woods, so, to the best of your ability, make sure that no other detrimental factors (criminal record, unemployment, etc.) happen while your application is being processed.
  4. Check your status online. The USCIS website has a portal that includes processing times for the different forms that applicants can use to check processing times before making an inquiry. Applicants can also you sign up to receive automatic case status updates by email as their case is processed. If you have not received a decision on your case within the published processing time, you may submit an inquiry using e-Request or contact the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283.

After you file your applications, all you can do it wait. We wish there were other avenues you could pursue, but at least you know you have done everything you can and now the ball is in the government’s court.

If you have any other questions about the green card application process, do not hesitate to reach out!