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What Is the Average Green Card Timeline? The 5 Things You Should Know

green card timeline

When you are awaiting a green card to join your family or start working in the United States, it can be an exciting time. However, the wait can also be full of anticipation and anxiety. What is the average green card timeline?

Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know to set reasonable expectations and avoid any unexpected delays.

1. There Are Multiple Types of Green Cards

U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services recognizes multiple kinds of green cards. You may be eligible for the following:

  • Family-Related Green Card: This option is available to immediate family members of U.S. citizens or someone who is engaged to be married to a U.S. citizen.
  • Employment-Related Green Card: This option is available for those coming into the U.S. to work.
  • Special Immigrant Green Card: This option is available for those who meet specific conditions such as working for a religious nonprofit or coming into the country after serving as an interpreter for the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan.
  • Refugee or Asylum Green Card: This option is available for those who entered the U.S. as a refugee or asylum at least one year ago.
  • Human Trafficking and Crime-Related Green Card: Victims of human trafficking and other crimes may be eligible to seek a green card.

2. The Green Card Timeline Varies by Type

Another important thing to know is that green card timelines are not standard across the different types of applications. Each step requires processing time, and these steps and forms are different for each type of green card. The timeline can also be impacted by the number of applicants and other external forces that alter the processing speed for each element of the application.

3. The Wait for a Green Card Can Be Years

The green card process can be quite time-consuming. Even if there are no errors and everything goes smoothly, the process will likely take months. Someone applying for a family-related green card, for instance, may find themselves with various wait times based on the status of their relationship:

  • Spouses of U.S. Citizens: Typical timeline of 10-17 months
  • Spouses of Green Card Holders: Typical timeline of 23-38 months
  • Parents of U.S. Citizens: Typical timeline of 10-13 months
  • Children Under 21 of U.S. Citizens: Typical timeline of 10-13 months
  • Children Under 21 of Green Card Holders: Typical timeline of 23-38 months
  • Unmarried Adult Children of U.S. Citizens: Typical timeline of 7-8 years (or more, depending on the country)
  • Unmarried Adult Children of Green Card Holders: Typical timeline of 8-9 years (or more, depending on the country)
  • Married Adult Children of U.S. Citizens: Typical timeline of 13-14 years (or more, depending on the country)
  • Siblings of U.S. Citizens: Typical timeline of 14-16 years (or more, depending on the country)

4. Green Card Applications Have Many Individual Factors

While these typical green card timelines offer a quick glimpse into the process as a whole, the green card application is a deeply personal one. There are many individual factors that impact the speed at which an application will be processed, and the USCIS can reach out to individuals with additional questions and requests for information—a move that has the potential to cause delays.

The country of origin, reason for applying for a green card, current application processing speed, and political impacts can all make the green card timeline move at different rates.

5. Understanding the Process Can Speed Things Up

The best way to ensure that your green card application is getting processed as quickly as possible is to make sure that everyone involved—the green card applicant and their sponsor—is doing all they can to accurately and quickly participate in the process.

There is often a waiting period between different parts of the application process. For example, those filing for a family-related green card will need to provide multiple forms in a specific order. Form I-130 will establish the family relationship. After that, Form I-485 (Application for Adjustment of Status) will be used for those already living in the U.S. while Form DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Application) will be used for those living outside of the U.S.

In some circumstances (such as when the sponsoring individual is a U.S. citizen applying for a green card for their spouse living in the U.S.), the different forms can be filed simultaneously. This can help speed up the process.

Making sure that you have the forms filled out accurately and submitted as quickly as possible at each point in the process can ensure that the green card timeline is as short as possible. Doing so, however, can be complicated, and the help of an experienced immigration law attorney can ensure that you know each step in advance. Being prepared and informed can take some of the anxiety out of the wait for a green card.

When you’re ready to begin your green card application, reach out to a skilled immigration lawyer for a free consultation.