How long does it take to get a Green Card? Many potential USA immigrants ask this question. However, the answer is not that simple. Learn about the Green Card categories and their different USCIS processing times and waiting periods.
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Are you in the middle of your Green Card application process or waiting for your big win in the Green Card Lottery? If so, you are probably spending your free time researching about living in the United States and already preparing for your US immigration.
However, one of the most important questions of immigrants to the USA is how long it will take to receive their US immigrant visa after applying for the Green Card. Depending on which path to the Green Card you chose, there are several answers to this question. The following factors affect the Green Card waiting time:
For certain Green Card categories, only a limited number of visas can be issued per year, according to the law. In these categories, applications are processed strictly in the chronological order of the application filing date ("priority date"), resulting in several years of waiting time.
You can look up the average processing times for the different Green Card categories on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
To do so, select the form you submitted in the "Processing Times" online tool, such as:
In the next step, select the appropriate category. You can choose from the following categories for forms I-130 and I-140:
If you want to look up the USCIS processing time for your I-130 application, you must choose from the following categories:
If you want to look up the waiting time for your I-140 application, you must choose from the following categories:
In the last step, select the service center that is currently processing your Green Card application. The choices are:
After selecting your form, category, and service center, the system will display the estimated processing time for your Green Card application.
We tested various combinations of Green Card types, categories, and service centers in USCIS's Check Case Processing Times Tool and compiled the following time spans:
|Green Card type||Category||USCIS processing time|
|Family-based Green Card||Permanent Resident filing for spouse or child under 21 years of age||10 - 30 months|
|Family-based Green Card||Permanent Resident filing for unmarried son/daughter 21 or older||29-64 months|
|Family-based Green Card||US citizen filing for spouse, parent, or child under age 21||10 - 16 months|
|Family-based Green Card||US citizen applying for unmarried son/daughter over 21 years of age||8 - 69 months;|
|Family-based Green Card||US citizen filing for married son/daughter||29 - 117 months|
|Family-based Green Card||US citizen filing for brother or sister||29 - 140 months|
|Employment-based Green Card||Extraordinary ability (E11)||20 - 22 months|
|Employment-based Green Card||Outstanding professor or researcher (E12)||12 - 13 months|
|Employment-based Green Card||Multinational executive or manager (E13)||12 - 13 months|
|Employment-based Green Card||Advanced degree or exceptional ability (E21)||10 months|
|Employment-based Green Card||Skilled worker or professional (E31, E32)||17 - 20 months|
|Employment-based Green Card||Unskilled worker (EW3)||11 - 14 months|
|Employment-based Green Card||Advanced degree or exceptional ability requesting a National Interest Waiver||16 - 19 months|
|Employment-based Green Card||Schedule A Nurses||11 - 13 months|
As of: January 2023
Please note that the USCIS processing times listed are only the time until your immigration application is processed. You will also need to go to the US Embassy for a Green Card interview.
Your entire Green Card process may look something like this:
There are particularly long wait times for Green Cards in the family categories with fixed annual quotas, such as Green Cards for unmarried children of US citizens over the age of 21 or siblings of US citizens. Here, the "immigrant visa backlog" is up to 22 years.
For employment-based immigrant visas such as "Professionals holding advanced degrees" or "Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers," the backlog is currently 8 - 10 years. However, these numbers are dynamic and can change quickly (e.g., due to policy decisions affecting the US labor market).
One of the fastest ways to obtain a Green Card is through the US government's annual Green Card Lottery. Here, 55,000 US immigrant visas are drawn at random among all participants, who hold their Green Cards in their hands just a few months later.
In addition to the Green Card wait time calculated by the USCIS tool, you can also get very specific information about your personal Green Card application using your receipt number and the online case status check.
In addition, the Department of State (DOS) Visa Bulletin provides you with an overview of the Green Card categories currently being processed by the agencies and which applicants are now allowed to schedule interviews with US embassies.
Within the Visa Bulletin, you can refer to the "Priority Date" (for employment-based and family-based Green Cards) or the "Case Number" (if you won the Green Card Lottery).
If you can't or won't tolerate the current Green Card wait time of often several years, you have only two options to speed things up:
Option #1 isn't cheap but quite effective. Your prospective US employer can use premium processing to ensure that USCIS processes your application for a work-based Green Card within 15 (maximum 45) days. The downside to this: the whole thing costs $ 2,500.
Option #2 is by far cheaper and takes just a few minutes online, so we recommend you always have a ticket in the Green Card Lottery pot while making any Green Card-related endeavors.
Winning in the US government's lottery of 55,000 American immigrant visas each year means you won't have to join the queues for family and work-based Green Cards.
Winning the Green Card Lottery is thus the ultimate life hack for USA fans because you can start submitting your immigration application right away after receiving your winning notification.