How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?

It won’t be that easy moving to the U.S.A. The process itself getting a Green Card and move to the U.S permanently is a long and complicated procedure. Other than that, there are many forms to fill up, fees to pay, and documents to comply with and submit. The multiple steps from getting a U.S.A. visa to a green card application that is inset for immigrant visa applications simply ensure that the process is completed in a transparent way and without mistakes.

The immigrant visa process starts with the petition which must be processed and filed by a family member or the employer. The petition must go through several different U.S. institutions in order to be reviewed thoroughly. Usually, this is the step that takes the longest in the process. Once approved, the applicant must apply for the actual immigrant U.S.A. visa from their home country. After the application for the immigrant visa, the applicant must patiently wait to hear back from the U.S Embassy on whether the U.S.A. visa is approved or not.

This is usually a frustrating procedure, most people who have applied, want to know how long does the procedure take to be granted with a Green Card. This question is most frequently asked that is usually referring to the petition phase. The time it takes for a petition to be reviewed in different U.S. institutions is the longest, however, the visa approval at the end take shorter times, usually, it just takes a few days to a few weeks. This article will tackle the different Green Card processing times for the different U.S immigrant visa types when it comes to visa petitions.

How Long Does the Procedure Take to Get a Green Card?

Know beforehand that getting a Green Card may take from a few months up to 10 years long. The period of time it takes to get a green card solely depends on the type of green card you are applying. Below are as follows:

  • Immediate Relative Green Cards are processed within a few months because there is no yearly cap
  • Family Preference Green Cards are processed from 1 to 10 years depending on the waiting time and also the yearly caps
  • Employment-Based Green Cards are processed from 1 to 4 years depending on the waiting time and yearly caps as well
  • Diversity Green Card winners are mostly announced within 7 months after the initial applications of the lottery, however, the visa processing after the announcements also takes another 7 months.

Family-Based Immigrant Visas

Family-based immigration visas are the types of visas that allow the family members of Lawful Permanent Residents also known as LPRs or U.S. citizens to apply for immigration in the U.S. Family members inclusive of the spouse, children, parents, and siblings. Also, know that other relatives cannot apply for family-based visas.

Basically, there are different family-based visas and others have yearly caps. Yearly caps mean that for a particular visa, there should only a number of selected people each year who are allowed to get it. So, after the yearly cap is reached, those people who have applied on that same year but did not get processed must wait until the next period allowed. It should be in the know that visas are processed on a first-come-first-serve basis.

So, if one of the family-based visas is given to only 1,000 people, and if it happens and you apply as the 1,001st person, you will be processed the next year. Still applicable even further, like if you are the 2001st person to apply, you will be processed after two years and it means that processing times can be long and extend for years.


The Two Sub-categories Family-Based Immigrant Visas:

Immediate Relative Visas

Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas this don’t have a yearly limit or what they call cap, so when you apply, you will be processed shortly within a few months and includes:

  • IR-1 visa for the spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • IR-2 visa for unmarried children under 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen
  • IR-3 visa for orphans who are adopted abroad by a U.S citizen
  • IR-4 visa for the orphan who is to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
  • IR-5 visa for parents of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years of age

With the IR-1 visa which is also known as a marriage green card, the processing time is also much shorter than that of the Family Preference Visas. It only takes from 8 to 10 months to get a green card through marriage.


Family Preference visas

Family Preference Immigrant Visas have yearly limits or caps, which simply means that processing time might run from 1 year to in some rare cases, it takes 10 years long. The date when an applicant’s petition will be reviewed is called a priority date and is posted by the U.S State Department and they as well decide on when a certain category is processed. Here are the annual cap for the family preference visas inclusions:

  • F-1 visa for unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children (23,400 visas);
  • F-2 visa for spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) (114,200 visas);
  • F-3 visa for married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children (23,400 visas)
  • F-4 visa for siblings of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age (65,000 visas)


Employment-Based Green Card

Employment-based green cards are given to people from other countries by U.S employers. The employers basically sponsor the foreign employees for the Green Cards if in case they cannot find a U.S citizen who is qualified, available, and willing to work there.

Every year, the U.S government allows and gives 140,000 employment visas to different categories based on percentages. The processing time is different depending on the demand for that certain visa. Processing times vary from 1 year for visas that are low in demand to roughly 4 or 6 years for visas with very high demand. The visa categories for employment-based immigration and the annual number issued for each one as follows:

  • EB-1 visa for the Outstanding Professionals in Academia or Research (allowed 28.6% or 40,040 visas)
  • EB-2 visa for the Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability (allowed 28.6% or 40,040 visas)
  • EB-3 visa for the Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (allowed 28.6% or 40,040 visas)
  • EB-4 visa for some Certain Special Immigrants (allowed 7.1% or 9,940 visas)
  • EB-5 visas for the Immigrant Investors in the U.S economy (allowed 7.1% or 9,940 visas)

Just like the family-based visas that have yearly caps, the employment-based visa applications are processed on a first-come-first-serve basis.

If you want to make the processing time shorter, you must ensure that all your documents are ready and error-free during the application. Mistakes in any form in your document or when you miss a document, the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will request the documents from you, which will extend the processing time even longer.


Returning Resident Immigrant Visa

A returning resident visa is needed if because of the reasons the inevitable situation or those were beyond your control, you could not return to the U.S. within one year of leaving for travel. You must first prove to USCIS that you intended to return to the U.S but for that certain reasons that is why you need a returning resident visa to get your Green Card back.

After the hectic application process, you will have to undergo a visa interview once again. The U.S Embassy’s consular officer where you are applying will be the one to inform you whether you got the returning resident visa or not.

For this visa, there is no processing time. You will be immediately notified whether you got your Green Card back. If you were denied the visa, then you have to apply for the immigrant visa again, either a family-based or an employment-based one.

Diversity Visa

The Diversity Visa is the type of visa that allows people from other countries with low rates of immigration to apply for the lottery to get a Green Card. The applications are usually catered in the month of October or November, and then, the applicants must wait for them to be processed.

Mainly, it’s the U.S State Department that processes the applications and immediately notifies the applicants once they are done. It is all up to them to decide when are they can release the results, and applicants must continuously follow up and check their statuses on the website. Usually, most of the time, the results are released 6 to 7 months after the application period has been completed.

If you are lucky enough to be one of the selected people, you must go through the meticulous procedure of applying for the Diversity U.S.A. Visa. You need to comply and complete the forms and the necessary papers and then submit supporting documents alongside, which might take a few months in the process. Right then, you need to patiently wait for the U.S Embassy in your home country to process your request for U.S.A visa and make a  wise and guided decision.