Family-Based Green Card Processing Time in 2024

Key Updates to Know

  • Annual limit for family-sponsored visas is 226,000. 
  • Family-based green cards are grouped by immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and the family preference category.
  • Immediate relative category has a higher preference over other family-based green card types.

The family-based green card stands out as one of the most highly sought after paths to obtain U.S. lawful permanent residency. While this is the dream of many foreign-born individuals, the process can be quite lengthy. Complexities arise due to the sheer number of people interested in obtaining a family-based green card, coupled with the limits of U.S. green cards issued per year. Let’s dive deep into the family-based green card processing time, factors that influence the length of processing, procedures for applying, and more.

In FY 2023, the Department of State (DOS) determined the annual limit for family-sponsored visas to be 226,000. By the close of the fiscal year on September 30, 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) had utilized 168,917 of the available visas. Of these, over 12,000 family-sponsored adjustments of status applications were approved for individuals already residing in the United States. However, there remained approximately 57,000 unused family-sponsored visa slots from FY 2022, which were subsequently rolled over to the FY 2023 employment-based limit.

While 226,000 might sound like a large number, the volume of people seeking green cards annually is often much higher. This numerical cap, along with other factors, is the reason why some applicants apply for and obtain their green card within a year or two, while some may need to wait several years, sometimes decades. This is primarily based on each applicant’s family-based green card preference level. There are many forms and procedural rules that you must follow to successfully submit a family-based green card. VisaNation makes the entire process easy and simple. Start your application today, and let professionals take care of your immigration journey.

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Family-Based Green Card Processing Time in 2024

Processing time if you are filing an AOS to get a marriage green card: if the spouse is a U.S. citizen and the foreign partner is living in the U.S. then it will take about 6-10 months to get a permanent resident card. In the meantime, you can also apply for a work permit as well as advance parole travel documents while you wait to get your green card. If the foreign partner is outside of the U.S., then the process takes a bit longer (18-24 months). If the I-130 is for a permanent resident filing for a spouse or child under 21, the processing time is subject to the visa bulletin. 

family gc processing time

Because green cards are always available for this category, both the U.S. sponsor and the beneficiary are allowed to file their I-130 petition and I-485 status adjustment form at the same time, provided the applicant is in the U.S. under a non-immigrant status.For immediate relatives outside the U.S., concurrent processing is not allowed. You will have to wait for the I-130 petition filed by your sponsor to be approved and wait for your priority date to become current before you can apply for a family-based green card through consular processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your country of residence.

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The processing time at this point will be dependent on the caseload at the embassy or consulate. You will need to factor in the immigration interview schedule and other consular processing requirements.

I-130 Processing Time for Family Applications

Based on the latest USCIS data, which is updated quarterly, immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen—such as a spouse, unmarried child under 21, or parent residing abroad—typically experience a wait time of 13.5 to 15 months for Form I-130 processing. For those within the U.S., the processing duration currently ranges from 13.5 to 20.5 months.

Meanwhile, for immediate relatives (spouse or unmarried child) of a U.S. green card holder residing abroad, the processing time for Form I-130 currently spans between 33 to 37 months. Conversely, for those located within the U.S., the processing timeline falls within the range of 13.5 to 20.5 months.

  • U.S. citizen filing for a brother or sister: 80% of cases are completed within 25 to 86.5 months
  • U.S. citizen filing for a married son or daughter: 80% of cases are completed within 45-117 months  
  • I-130 processing time for a spouse of a U.S. Citizen in 2024: 14-53 months 
  • I-130 processing time for a spouse of a U.S. lawful permanent resident: 28- 74 months

This is the first step when filing a family-based green card application. This petition must be filed into the USCIS by a U.S. citizen or green card holder and must be accompanied by the required documentation to show eligibility and a qualifying family relationship.

I-130 processing time for family applications

Once the USCIS receives your petition, you will be notified via a receipt by mail. If the petition is approved, the sponsored foreign national will then need to wait until a green card is available for their category.

There is an exception to this for applicants who are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. As mentioned previously, they do not need to wait for a visa number as there is always an immigrant visa available for them the moment the I-130 filed on their behalf is approved.

The sponsoring family member can also expedite the process by filing both the I-130 and the I-485 adjustment of status application at the same time, as long as the beneficiary is in the U.S. Applicants who do this usually get their green cards within 6 to 12 months. Immediate relatives outside the U.S. will need to wait for the approval of their I-130 before they can apply for a green card.

Family-Based Green Cards Categories and Processing Times

Family-based green cards can be broadly grouped into two categories. They are the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and the family preference category.

This second category is for specific, more distant family members of U.S. citizens and some specified family members of lawful permanent residents. It consists of four subgroups, F1, F2, F3, and F4. You can see the breakdown of green cards allocated per category per year below.

green cards per year 2023

The relationship between the petitioner and the sponsored foreign national will determine the processing time for the green card application. Not sure which category your family members fall into? We can help you with every aspect of bringing your family to the U.S. Get started today!

Immediate Relative Green Card

This particular visa category enjoys a higher preference over other family-based green card types for two major reasons. It does not have an annual limit, meaning there is always there is an unlimited number of visas so long the applicant and the sponsor are eligible.

Also, immediate relative applicants don’t have to worry about the green card waiting line as in other categories. The adjudication process starts as soon as the I-130 petition is received by the USCIS. Once it is approved, the green card will immediately become available.

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Map of Family-Based Green Card Priority Dates by Country 2023

Family Preference Subcategories

Family First Preference (F1): This subcategory of the family-based green card is for unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their children under 21. Its annual cap is 23,400.

Family Second Preference (F2): This is for children under 21, spouses, and unmarried sons and daughters (who are 21 years old and above) of lawful permanent residents. Its annual cap is 114,200. 77% of the green cards in this group are issued to children under 21 and spouses (F2A), while the remaining is allocated to unmarried sons and daughters (F2B).

Family Third Preference (F3): This is for married sons and daughters (of any age) of U.S. citizens, and their children under 21. Its annual cap is 23,400.

Family Fourth Preference (F4): This subcategory is for brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, as well as their children under 21 and spouses, provided the U.S. citizen sponsor is at least 21 years old. It has an annual cap of 65,000.

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Fastest Way to Bring Siblings to the USA

The most effective way to bring a sibling to the United States is in the steps we mentioned above:

  • File Form I-130
  • Wait for I-130 approval (typically 2-5 year wait time) and go on to NVC
  • File Affidavit of Support
  • After the Visa interview, they come to the U.S. before the issued visa expires
  • Wait for a Permanent Resident Card once they arrive in the U.S.

The alternative way your sibling can come to the United States faster is they can find a job that sponsors them for a work visa. The best way to determine which employment-based immigration path might be suitable for them is to discuss their qualifications with an immigration attorney. Alternatively, some countries have a visa lottery system which are relatively easy to enter but the odds of being selected are low due to the sheer volume of applicants. Learn more about the Diversity Visa Program. 


Can I Expedite the Process?

Generally, family-based green card applicants can expedite the processing time by having the petitioner file the I-130 petition properly and submit all the required documents. This, however, will only have an impact on the I-130 petition.

There is another option for beneficiaries who are F2A applicants. If the sponsor becomes a citizen while they are still in the green card waiting line, they will be able to expedite the process. In this case, your sponsor will need to send a letter to the National Visa Center indicating that he or she is now a citizen. This will pave the way for your green card application to be processed as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen.

VisaNation Immigration Law Client Reviews Graphic 2Family-Based Green Card Processing Time Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions:

How can I submit a service request if I think my case is taking too long?

The first step would be to consult your immigration attorney to gauge whether your case is taking longer than it normally should. If your case is considered outside of normal processing times (longer than the time it takes to complete 93% of cases or beyond 130% of the cycle time), USCIS will provide you a link to submit an inquiry.

What affects the length of processing time? 

A number of factors include:

  • Number of applications submitted
  • Petitions or requests received
  • Service center workload and staffing
  • The time it takes to respond to a request for evidence
  • Operational and policy changes in the service center

What is the I-130 processing time for brother and sister in 2024?

Since brothers and sisters are not considered immediate relatives (they are in the F4 category), they have to wait for a permanent resident card to become available. It has an annual cap of 65,000 and hundreds of thousands of people apply. They have to wait for the priority date and visa bulletin date to become current.

What is the I-130 processing time for parents in 2024?

Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen—such as a parent residing abroad—typically experience a wait time of 13.5 to 15 months for Form I-130 processing. For those within the U.S., the processing duration currently ranges from 13.5 to 20.5 months.

What is the green card waiting time for India? 

Check the latest Visa Bulletin to see current times for India. Check which category you fall into F-1, F-2A, F-2B, F-3 or F-4. The Dates for Filing chart determines when an applicant can file an I-485, Adjustment of Status. If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.

It’s a hard task to keep track of the final action dates for your family members and know which forms to submit. Let us make the process easy for you. Create your account today!

I am a U.S. citizen petitioning for my parents. How long does it take in 2024? 

The I-130 average processing time is 14-53 months for immediate relatives. If your parents are already in the U.S. you can file Form I-485 at the same time.

I am a U.S. citizen petitioning for a brother or sister. How long does it take in 2024? 

If they are within the U.S., you’ll need to file Form I-130, wait for a visa to become available and then file Form I-485. Wait times are typically years. Consult with your immigration attorney about possible alternative options to help them immigrate to the U.S.

How We Can Help

Family-based green card processing times keep getting longer by the day. Things can even become more even more complicated if your petition is not filed properly. Any single mistake can be very costly as it can lead to delay or denial. This is why you need an experienced family-based green card attorney.

VisaNation Law Group’s highly experienced green card immigration attorneys will help you file your petition. With their experience and expertise in the field, they will help you avoid the common immigration pitfalls. Start by taking a look at our family immigration plans.