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How Long Does It Take to Get a Green Card?

It’s no secret that the immigration process can feel notoriously long. While many are excited to get a green card at first, the months of waiting and processing times can sometimes feel as dreary as a long winter before spring! Why does it take so long, and how much longer will you have to wait?!

There truly are many paths to gaining a green card. Some take longer than others. It’s really important to be organized while you go through this process to avoid unnecessary delays. Even so, there are some things like processing times and appointments that may take the length of your green card journey out of your hands.

What is a Green Card?

Let’s not put the mountain before the molehill. To understand the timeline of how long getting a green card can take, it’s important to understand the purpose of it. Not to be confused with a visa, which is for short-term visits, a green card tells the holder that they are a resident and US Citizen permanently. It’s issued to those who are not born US Citizens but want to become one.

Just like a security card could grant you entry to a building meant for employees only, an immigrant needs a green card to access living, working, and voting permanently in the United States. This is a requirement and shows the government that you are qualified and prepared to have citizenship.

Why Does Getting a Green Card Take Time?

Waiting for your green card can make you feel like a toddler in the backseat of a long road trip. With no visible destination in site, you may ask yourself and others – “are we there yet?!” While getting from point A to Point B seems simple, you may be new to the immigration process and not understand the reasons why getting your green card may take some time. Like a person driving a car during a road trip may stop for gas and food, deal with traffic on highways, and find the right route, there are things that need to happen that make getting a green card take some time. Examples could be:

  • Meeting the requirements of the type you are applying for (Ex. Green card by marriage)
  • Filling out and filing the forms correctly
  • Saving up and paying for any green card fees
  • Completing your biometrics appointment (5-8 weeks after your application)
  • Completing your USCIS citizenship interview (3-4 months after your application)
  • Passing your USCIS civil/ethics test (failing results in a 60-90 day wait time to retake the test)

How Long Will My NC Green Card Application Take?

The good news is, just like a GPS can tell you your estimated time of arrival, where you are in the process can tell you how close you are to your final designation. But just as different cars and drivers have different needs and routes, the amount of time it takes to get your green card will vary. Because there are so many different roads with varying wait times, it’s impossible to give an answer on how long yours can take without first knowing what type you are applying for, and the basis for filing.

It’s possible, however, to provide general statistics to give you an insight into your situation. If you are applying for family-based immigration or a green card by marriage, it can take a minimum of 12 months. If you are a parent of a U.S. Citizen, or a minor child of a U.S. Citizen, it’s possible that it would only take 1-2 years.

Generally, employment-based visas can take longer. Why? Because they are limited in number. At a glance, employment-based green cards can take anywhere from 1-6 years.

USCIS Processing Times for Different Types of Green Cards

The USCIS offers an online form to check your exact case processing times per form, form category, and field office or service center. What a great tool for those waiting on a response! This is just a part of your journey to immigration. The processing times listed do not represent your green card journey from start to finish, but can give you a good idea as to the minimum time required. The chart below offers the information for common types of green cards filed as of Feb 13, 2024.

FormForm CategoryWait Time Per Service Center
i-130 | Petition for Alien RelativePermanent resident filing for a spouse or child under 2174.5 months for All Field Offices
 U.S. Citizen filing for a spouse, parent, or child under 2151 months for All Field Offices
 U.S. Citizen filing for unmarried son/daughter 21 or older86.5 months for All Field Offices
 Permanent resident for unmarried son or daughter 21 or older83.5 months for All Field Offices
 U.S. Citizen filing for a married son or daughter114 months for All Field Offices
 U.S. Citizen filing for a brother or sister83.5 months for All Field Offices
i-140 | immigrant petition for alien workerExtraordinary ability (E11)19 months for Nebraska Service Center 22.5 months for Texas Service Center
 Outstanding professor or researcher (E12)6.5 months for Nebraska Service Center 8 months for Texas Service Center
 Multinational executive or manager (E13)8.5 months for Nebraska Service Center 9.5 months for Texas Service Center
 Skilled worker or professional (E31; E32)5.5 months for Nebraska Service Center 7.5 months for Texas Service Center
 Unskilled worker (EW3)3 months for Nebraska Service Center 20 months for Texas Service Center
i-485 | Application to Register Perminant Residence or Adjust StatusEmployment-based adjustment applications42.5 months for Charlotte NC 35.5 months for Raleigh NC
 Family-based adjustment applications18.5 months for Charlotte NC 24 months for Raleigh NC
 Based on grant of asylum more than 1 year ago32 months for All Field Offices
 Based on refugee admission more than 1 year ago31 months for All Field Offices
 Based on an approved T visa34.5 months for Vermont Services Center
 Based on an approved U Visa34.5 months for Vermont Services Center

What Makes a Getting a Green Card from USCIS Take Longer?

Going back to our road trip, there can sometimes be some unavoidable “traffic” in your journey to get a green card. What roadblocks are we talking about, and are they avoidable? Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do. For example, if you still live outside of the U.S., it makes the process more complicated and will cause delays. Also, applications for adult children (over 21) who are either married or unmarried requesting citizenship tend to take more time. If you have joint sponsors, chances are it will take longer to gather all the needed information.

Contact an Immigration Attorney to Get Help with Long Wait Times

In addition to the above, unfamiliarity with the system can cause a lot of delays in getting your green card. Using an immigration attorney is like looking at a maze from above instead of walking through it on foot. While you may have to turn left or right to rule out a certain twist or turn, an attorney can save you time by helping you avoid those time-wasting mistakes. Why? Cause they’ve done it before! They have gone through this maze so many times that they can anticipate exactly where you need to go.

If your green card is taking a long time, or you want to start the process without fear of it taking years, contact us today for a consultation.

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