How Long Does It Take To Get A Green Card?

American flag behind cloudy sky to symbolize the Green Card process.

The process to get a Green Card and permanently move to the U.S can be lengthy, complicated, and frustrating for you and your family. There are countless fees, forms, and documents for you to manage before you can even submit your application. Sometimes, it can feel like it will never end.

That’s why Monument Immigration Law is here to walk you through every step of the process, from filling out forms to submitting your final application. Founded by MarkNaugle, we have years of experience guiding individuals and their families through the immigration process.

How Long Is the Green Card Process

Potential applicants often ask how long the Green Card application will take. Here, we will outline the Green Card process from beginning to end. The process will be much easier if you know what is required at each step, and will help you submit an application that is complete and free of errors.

At Monument Immigration, we check your eligibility for a green card and get the process started within 48 business hours of receiving your required documentation. We know the process can be long and arduous, so we do everything we can to get your application prepared in a timely manner.

Getting Started on Your Green Card Application

The first step in getting the visa process started is the petition filed on your behalf. This is done either by an employer or a family member. This petition is then reviewed by various U.S government agencies. If the petition is approved- and this approval can take a very long time-, you must then apply for the official immigrant visa from your home country. Once this application has been submitted, you will be notified by the U.S. embassy on whether your application has been accepted and you can move forward with your application.

How Long Will it All Take?

The time it takes to get a Green Card can vary from a few months to a decade. It all depends on what kind of green card you need.

  • Immediate Relative Green Cards: reviewed within a few months
  • Family Preference Green Cards: 1-10 years, varying based on the annual quota
  • Employment-Based Green Cards: 1-4 years, varying based on the annual quota
  • Diversity Green Card: winners notified 7 months following lottery, processing takes another half-year

Applying for Employment-Based Green Cards

These green cards are given by American employers to residents of other nations. Employers will sponsor a foreign employee if they are unable to locate an American who is qualified and able perform the same job that the potential green card recipient hopes to fill.

The U.S government issues around 140,000 visas to employers annually. Waiting times depend on how popular the visa category is. Some less popular visas are processed in just a year, while visas in categories with high demand can take around 5 years. The following are the categories of employment visas and the percentage of the total they are allocated:

  • EB-1: Outstanding Professionals in Academia or Research (29%)
  • EB-2: Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability (29% )
  • EB-3: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (29%)
  • EB-4: Special Immigrants (7%)
  • EB-5: Immigrant Investors in the U.S economy (7%)

These visas are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. That’s why we work hard to prepare your application quickly and have it ready to go as soon as possible. Every second counts when preparing a visa application, and can make the difference between your application being delayed by a year.

Given the high demand and long processing time, it is crucial that you have all of your documents in order from the start and submit an application that is error-free. If an application is incomplete or there are mistakes, the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services will ask for documents and other information. This will slow down the process, and could lead to your application review being pushed back another year.

Remember, this process is first-come, first served. Application errors are one of the most common delays in the visa process. That’s why we work with you to make sure your application is complete and ready for submission so that there are no hold-ups once you send it off to immigration officials for review.

Applying for Family Based Immigrant Visas

These visas are for the family members of U.S citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), and allow them to apply for immigration to the U.S. Included are spouses, children, parents, and siblings. Other family members do not qualify.

Not all family visas are the same. Some are subject to yearly quotas, meaning that only a certain number of people are allowed to receive them every year. Once the quota is reached, those who have applied but have not yet been reviewed must wait for the following year. They are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis.

If the quota is 100 and you are the 101st applicant, that means you will be the first to be processed the following year. Depending on the number of applicants in a given year and the annual cap, it can take years for your application to be processed.

Although there are many different family visas, there are two primary groups you should know about before you begin the visa process: Immediate Relative visas and Family Preference visas.

Applying for Immediate Relative Visas

These visas have no yearly quota. That means review times are just a few months. These visas include:

  • IR-1: the spouses of citizens
  • IR-2: unwed children under 21 years old of an American citizen
  • IR-3: orphans adopted abroad by an American citizen
  • IR-4: orphans to be adopted in the U.S. by an American citizen
  • IR-5: parents of an American citizen who is a minimum of 21 years old

The IR-1 visa is more commonly known as the marriage green card. A marriage green card will usually be issued in 8 to 10 months. You can read more about immediate relative immigration and our services here.

Applying for Family Preference Visas

These visas do have yearly quotas. That means the processing time can vary from 1 year up to a decade (although such extreme cases are uncommon). The date when an application will be reviewed is called the priority date. These dates are posted by the U.S State Department and will vary depending on the type of visa. The following are types of family preference visas and their yearly quotas:

  • F-1: unmarried sons and daughters of American citizens, and their underage children (23,000 visas);
  • F-2: spouses, underage children, and unwed sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) (114,00 visas)
  • F-3: married sons and daughters of American citizens, and their spouses and underage children (23,000 visas)
  • F-4: siblings of American citizens, and their spouses and underage children, given the American citizens are a minimum of 21 years of age (65,000 visas)

Applying for a Returning Resident Immigration Visa

This visa is required if you were unable to return to the United States within one year of leaving the country. USCIS will require proof that you planned on returning to the United States but were unable to due to unforeseen circumstances. Therefore, you need a Returning Resident Immigration visa to regain permanent residency.

After you finish your application for a returning resident visa, you will have to complete another visa interview. The American Embassy in the nation where you are applying from will tell you if your returning resident application was accepted and if you can return to the United States to re-establish permanent residency.

Once the decision has been made on your returning resident visa application, you know will know right away if you got your Green Card back. If your application was rejected, you must re-apply for a visa. That means either a family-based visa or an employment-based visa.

Applying for a Diversity Visa

This visa is designed to allow residents of nations with fewer immigrants to the United States to apply for a Green Card lottery. These applications are usually submitted late in the year, around November. Once submitted, applicants must wait for the U.S State Department to process applications.

Once processing is completed, applicants are notified of the results. The time of the process can vary and is decided by the State Department. Applicants should frequently check the State Department website for any change in the status of their application. Decisions are usually made a half year after the end of the application period. Again, none of these times are guaranteed, so applicants should continuously monitor their application.

If you are selected, you must complete all of the Diversity Visa application process requirements. This means completing paperwork and providing various supporting documents, adding a few months to the process. Once this step is completed, you must wait for the U.S Embassy to review your visa request. The process, from the initial lottery process to immigration, will take about 2 years.

Serving You Throughout the Process

We know the visa application is stressful for you and your loved ones. That’s why we’re here for you all along. At Monument Immigration, our immigration attorneys in Salt Lake City want to make this difficult process as painless as possible. We can consult you on nearly every step of the way towards getting your green card and moving to the United States. Contact us to get a free case evaluation, or with any questions you may have about the immigration process and how long it takes to get a Green Card in the United States.