Green Card Process and Procedure Time Frames

Get a Green CardA number of variables play into the amount of time it takes for immigrants to get a green card in applying for permanent residency in the United States. Green Card time frame depends on the category of the green card and whether an immigrant files the application from inside or outside the United States.

Most immigrants who seek permanent resident status– a green card– do so through sponsorship of a family member or an employer in the United States. Other immigrants apply for green cards through refugee, asylee or another humanitarian status. It’s also possible for individuals to file without sponsorship or holding a humanitarian status.

Each green card category carries its own processes and procedures with specific necessary steps to follow. For those who apply for a green card from within the United States, for instance, the application process is referred to as an adjustment of status. For those who live in countries outside the United States, the green card application goes through consular processing.

Applying for a green card from within the United States is essentially a request to move from nonimmigrant or parolee status to immigrant status– something U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processes as an adjustment of status. While it’s possible to request this adjustment while still holding nonimmigrant status.

For those who are outside the United States, green card applications move through consular processing. In these cases, individuals who are granted approval of an immigration petition and who have an immigrant visa number immediately available can apply for admittance into the United States as a permanent resident.

It’s important to note that USCIS only allows individuals to file green card applications, regardless of whether it’s an adjustment of status application or a consular processing application, after the applicant has established green card eligibility.

Understanding the green card categories and eligibility criteria are crucial components to expediting the green card process, it’s likewise important to note that USCIS can only issue green cards when a visa is available. Visa availability is determined by guidelines established by the U.S. Congress. The USCIS offers a “Visa Availability & Priority Dates page for guidance.

Once an applicant establishes eligibility and correctly files all necessary paperwork, USCIS processes the applications in the order they’re received.