How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?

Updated on April 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • There are four types of green cards: family-based, marriage-based, employment-based, and returning resident immigrant visas.
  • Processing times vary for each type, with family-based visas taking 7-33 months, marriage-based green cards requiring 10-13 months, employment-based green cards ranging from 1-6 years, and returning resident immigrant visas having no processing time.
  • To expedite the process, it’s essential to understand the typical timeline, explore eligibility for expedited processing, and meticulously prepare your application.
  • Notably, there is a significant backlog for employment-based green cards, particularly affecting applicants from countries such as China and India.

Are you currently applying for a Green Card? And are you perhaps wondering – How long does it take to get a Green Card? What do you need to keep in mind? And are you guaranteed one?

You’ve come to the right place. Let us help you get the answer to how long does it take to get a Green Card and help you understand what is taking so long.

The 4 Types of Green Card

There are four types of green cards that grant you a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status, each with its own process and timetable:

  • Family-Based Green Card
  • Marriage-Based Green Card
  • Employment-Based Green Card
  • Returning Resident Immigrant Visa

Family-Based Green Card

This Green Card requires you to be an immediate family member of a U.S. citizen. The U.S. citizen may petition on your behalf for an immigrant visa. Unmarried children under the age of 21 and the parents of a U.S. citizen are also able to get a family-based Green Card.

Marriage-Based Green Card

Spouses of U.S. citizens are eligible for a Green Card under this category. The U.S. spouse can petition on behalf of the foreign spouse for an immigrant visa and eventually a Green Card.

The fiancé of a U.S. citizen can also get a special K-1 visa that allows them to get married on American soil. They may petition for a marriage-based Green Card as soon as they get married.

Employment-Based Green Card

Millions of people live and work in the U.S. on employment-based visas. Many of them then work their way towards an employment-based Green Card. This category is full of applicants and the competition is quite strong.

Keep your eyes on the news to understand the implications of the decisions the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) makes regarding visas and Green Cards. You may need to adapt your visa strategy to comply with the rules set out by the U.S. government.

>> Read More: Green Card Process Steps & Processing Times

Returning Resident Immigrant Visa

Some people have received their LPR status in previous years. They sometimes travel the world to live and work abroad. Because of this, many of them lose their permanent residence status when they spend too much time outside of America. They don’t renew their Green Cards and end up losing their LPR status.

There is a special category for this type of situation. These people can apply for a returning resident immigrant visa that allows them to work their way towards a Green Card again. We’ll discuss the details of this process in more detail below.

U.S. Green Card Processing Times

Below are explanations of the green card processing times for each of the four types of green cards discussed above.

Family-Based Immigrant Visas Processing Time (7-33 Months)

Depending on the office where you apply for your Green Card, it can take anything from 7 months to 33 months if you are fortunate. Some USCIS offices are busier than others and some consulates or embassies abroad may take longer to help you. Then you also need to keep the cap and the demand for the type of visa you are filing for in mind. It can take up to 10 years before you get your family-based Green Card.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Green Card Through Marriage? (10-13 Months)

The average wait for a marriage-based green card is 10-13 months. Since there is no cap on the amount of marriage-based Green Cards allowed per year. You can almost be certain of a marriage-based visa number available to you. The only thing that may stand in your way is your application and eligibility. You still need to convince the USCIS to grant you the status. A marriage-based Green Card is also called an IR-1 visa. It’s a conditional Green Card that expires after 2 years. Thereafter you can apply for permanent residency.

Employment-Based Green Card Processing Time (1-6 Years)

You can possibly get your Green Card within a year. But it could easily just as well take between 4 and 6 years if you apply in a popular category that receives many applications. There are many different types of employment-based visas. Each has a different yearly cap for Green Cards (some even don’t qualify for LPR status). As mentioned before, this is a very popular category and there are usually more applications than actual visas and Green Cards granted.

Returning Resident Immigrant Visa Processing Time (No Processing Time)

A returning resident visa is available to people who had LPR status but lost it due to spending too much time outside of the country. During this time their LPR status expired and they can, therefore, not return.

To qualify for the Returning Resident Immigrant visa, you need to prove the reason why you couldn’t return to the U.S. was beyond your control. You also need to prove you made attempts to return at that time.

You can complete the application and interview process abroad at a U.S. embassy or consular office. There is no processing time involved. The consular officer presiding over your case will inform you if you got your visa. The waiting period depends on how fast you and the U.S. authorities can complete the required application procedures.

How to Speed Up the Green Card Process

Who likes to wait? Hardly anybody! That is why we’ve got some tips on how to get your Green Card faster.

Understand the Usual Timeline for Your Green Card or Visa

You need to know the average waiting period for your Green Card. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll know when things are taking too long. You can then go to the applicable departments and ask for your case status. You can even check case processing times to track the progress of your application.

Ask for Expedited Processing

You can, under the correct circumstances, ask for expedited processing of your application. You need proof of the emergency that requires the expedited process and the correct paperwork to request this. For instance, an expedited process may be possible for someone who needs a family-based visa before they can come to the U.S. for a much-needed organ transplant.

Carefully Preparing Your Green Card or Visa Application

This is one of the best pieces of advice you need to hear. Everything within your control must be correct and on time. Every form you complete must contain the required information without any errors. The USCIS will ask you to either submit additional information or, even worse, reject your application altogether if the information isn’t correct. This will add weeks and even up to months to your processing time.

Green Card Backlog by Country

There are currently more than 960,000 immigrants stuck on the green card backlog. Below is the most recent record of how many applicants there are for employment-based green cards.

EB-1 (Priority)1EB-2 (Professional)EB-3 (Professional and Skilled)EB-3 (Other)
El Salvador0000
EB-4 (Special Immigrants)EB-5 (Investors)Total Principal ApplicantsTotal Individuals in Backlog (including dependents)
El Salvador12,096012,09615,725

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