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How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?

How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?
With scores of Green Card aspirants out there, it isn't surprising that 'How much time does it take to get a Green Card?' is the most common question about the United States Lawful Permanent Residency. The United States Lawful Permanent Residency, informally referred to as the 'Green Card', is an identification document issued by the United States administration, granting them the permission to legally reside in the US territory.
Abhijit Naik
The card serves as a legal proof, stating that its holder is a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States of America, and has been granted immigration benefits, which include residing and taking employment in the States. Simply put, it is a permanent visa to the United States of America.
How long before I can apply?
Basically, an individual can apply for citizenship in the United States after completing 5 years of residency. The stipulated period is shortened to 4 years, if the permanent residency was received through political asylum specified by international or Federal law, and 3 years if the individual is married to a US citizen.
How Much Time does it Take to Get a Green Card?
The time required for Green Card processing in the United States varies from one case to another, depending on the circumstances. As the process has many variables, it is difficult to accurately determine how much time it would take. At times, the entire process―right from filing the visa petition to being granted the status for permanent residence―can take up to a few years. At other times―if everything goes well―you can get your Green Card in anywhere around 6-12 months from the submission of application.

Green Card processing time may also vary in accordance to the outcome of medical tests and submission of required documents. But obviously, delay in these aspects will invariably cause further delay in Green Card processing. Overall, the time required for the entire procedure largely depends on:
(i) The information and evidence you provide while applying for it and
(ii) The method you choose.
Employment-based Green Card
In this case, most of the work related to the application is done by you, and at some point you require your employers acknowledgment in form of signatures or a copy of your hiring record. When the Green Card is sponsored by the employer, the process involves three steps.
  • Labor Certification Application, which may take around 6 months.
  • Immigrant Petition, which is likely to take around 3 months.
  • Adjustment of Status, which may roughly require a year.
Note: These are general estimates which may vary from region to region, depending on the number of people applying for the same. Green card processing in Florida, for instance, may take longer than it takes in the state of Iowa.
Green Card for 'Non-Schedule A' (NSA) Alien
The process to acquire a Green Card for 'Non-Schedule A' (NSA) Alien is even longer. The first phase of this process is labor certification, which is followed by the filing of I-140, while the second phase involves Adjustment of Status or Consulate Processing. The process can take anywhere between 15 to 24 months, even longer at times. The duration required to complete this process largely depends on the priority date of the primary applicant.
Family-sponsored Green Card
As far as the family-sponsored Green Card is concerned, it can be attained by any of the immediate relatives of the U.S. citizen, i.e., an individual who is a Lawful Permanent Resident of America. The immediate relatives―in this case―include the spouse, minor children, or parents. A marriage-based Green Card is sponsored by the spouse of the applicant. In this process, the applicant's spouse has to file Form I-130, 'Petition for Alien Relative', which will state that the applicant is eligible for an 'immediate relative or family' sponsored visa classification. The time required in this case may vary in accordance to the relationship of the applicant with the individual who is sponsoring the Green Card.
Investment-based Green Card
If you are willing to invest in the United States and create 10 permanent jobs for US workers, you become eligible for a Green Card under the Immigrant Investor Program, a.k.a. 'EB-5'. To start with, you will require to prepare the EB-5 petition, which will take roughly about a month and set the ball rolling. The next step will be to file I-526 petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which will take another six months or so.

If you are in the United States, you can apply for the Green Card with the USCIS. If not, you will have to apply for the same in the Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence. The same will take anywhere between 9 to 12 months. Overall, the investment-based Green Card will take around 15 to 18 months. The document that you will get at the end of this period will be a conditional Green Card. In order to remove these conditions, you will have to file the I-829 petition, but only after 2 years.
Simple Tips to Speed Up Green Card Process
While it is difficult to predict exactly how much time it will take for you to get the Green Card, you can take some simple measures to speed up the overall processing time.
  • Firstly, you need to make sure that you submit the Green Card application, as well as all the required documents and evidence, well in advance.
  • More importantly, you need to ensure that you provide all the required information when filling the application form. The rule of the thumb - if the question was not important, it would not have been on the form.
  • Don't lie when filling the application form. If the authorities realize that you have provided wrong information or deliberately hidden something, you are likely to end up forfeiting your dream forever.
  • In case of any changes in the information that you have provided, you should promptly bring them to the notice of the authorities.
  • You can contact the USCIS office to see if they received your application, check on its status, or if you have any doubts.
Though small, these are some effective tips which can make sure that you don't hit any roadblocks when it comes to Green Card processing, and you get it in quickest time possible.

Before issuing the Green Card, the USCIS also performs additional background checks to validate the person's moral character, check for criminal background, affiliation to banned outfits, etc. That may further lengthen the total time required for Green Card processing. There have been cases wherein the entire process has taken several years instead of 6 to 12 months, which is usually the case. The availability of visa is yet another factor which comes into play when you apply for a Green Card, considering that visas in some categories are not readily available.

Simply put, the overall time taken to get a Green Card varies from one case to another, with quite a few factors coming into play. At times, a layman's visa application gets settled faster than that of renowned people, like some NBA star or world famous scientists.

You can check your case status online by registering an account with the official website of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You can also call the USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC) on 1-800-375-5283. (If you are not in the United States, you will have to contact the embassy or consulate in your country.) If they fail to attend to your query even after 30 days of having contacted them, you can e-mail the service center which has the jurisdiction over your case.