The family-based green card is one of the most popular ways to become a U.S. lawful permanent resident. Despite this popularity, however, the process is not as straightforward or fast as many people perceive it to be. This is because there is a limit to the number of U.S. green cards that can be issued in a year. On this page, we explore family-based green card processing time, factors that influence the length of processing, procedures for applying, and more.
Each year, 226,000 family-based green cards are issued to applicants from different countries. While this 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.
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Family-Based Green Card Processing Time for Immediate Relative Applicants
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.
The two forms can be processed concurrently to ensure a short processing time. The waiting period for this will depend on the service center in charge of your application. You can check the most up-to-date service center processing times with the USCIS processing times tool.
Say for example, 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 8-12 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 (16-18 months). If the I-130 is for a permanent resident filing for a spouse or child under 21, the processing time is 16-30 months.
Whether you are in the U.S. or outside of the U.S., we can make your immigration process much easier. We will be with you every step of your immigration journey – from application to approval. At VisaNation, we make sure that your application is complete right, the first time, eliminating unnecessary delays. Get started today!
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.
Understanding which category your family members fall into is crucial in estimating timelines for family-based immigration. Longer wait times can be draining and the process can become tiresome. At VisaNation, we aim to help you submit your application as fast as possible to shorten your immigration journey. Start by checking your eligibility today!
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.
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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Family Preference Green Card
Unlike the immediate relative category, the family preference category has certain factors that create limits on these visas. These factors heavily determine the family-based green card processing time.
For instance, each of the subcategories in the family preference has an annual limit for immigrant visas issued each year. Once this number is reached, other applicants in that category will have to wait until the next fiscal year. Also, no country can make up more than 7% of the total visas issued in any given year. Once this percentage is reached, other applicants from that country will have to wait until the next fiscal year.
This can cause some applicants to have to wait for several years before they are able to adjust their status. Therefore, the processing time will largely depend on two main factors, one of which is the family preference subcategory you are pursuing:
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.
The second factor is based on the applicant’s country of origin. Sometimes, the wait times for some applicants may be much longer than the average time. This is because certain countries usually exceed their 7% annual limit for each category, which leads to visa application backlogs.
If you are from any of these countries, you may be affected by this quota. Applicants from countries like India, the Philippines, China, and Mexico may have to wait for 10 to 20 years, depending on the visa backlogs for their subcategories. We make family-based immigration easy. Start your application today!
Family Preference Green Card Processing Times
Due to the annual limit attached to these green cards, the processing time is calculated by adding the I-130 processing time and how much time you will spend waiting for your green card priority date to become current.
I-130 Processing Time
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.
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.
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.
Family-Based Green Card Wait Times
The processing times vary significantly among the subcategories, sometimes ranging between one and more than ten years. For instance, F2A applicants (spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents), usually enjoy the shortest processing times. This is because a higher priority is given to them, coupled with the fact that the subcategory has the largest annual quota among family-based green card preferences.
Status Adjustment Application for Applicants In the U.S.
If you are in the United States, you will need to petition the USCIS for an adjustment from your current non-immigrant status to an immigrant permanent resident status the moment a visa number becomes available to you. You will need to file the I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to adjust your status and receive your green card.
On average, the I-130 filed by your sponsor takes between 6 to 12 months to be processed. The USCIS processes the petition on a first-come, first-served basis. Your sponsor can expedite the process by submitting the form as early as possible. Also, the form must be properly filed with all the required documents attached.
For any missing documents, there will be a Request for Evidence (RFE) notification from the USCIS. This will lead to a delay and longer processing time, as your application process will be placed on hold until the documents are submitted.
Immigrant Visa Application for Applicants Outside the U.S.
If you are outside the U.S. and there is an immigrant visa number available for you (meaning your priority date is current), you will need to visit the U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country to continue the family-based green card processing. You will get your visa number and schedule an appointment for your immigration interview.
You will also need to complete a biometric screening, medical examination, and submit the necessary documentation. To do this, you will need to complete a DS 260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration and bring the confirmation page to the interview.
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Eligibility Criteria for Sponsoring a Family-Based Green Card
Before you can sponsor a family-based green card, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and provide relevant documentation such as a birth or naturalization certificate or green card.
- You must demonstrate that you have the financial ability to support your sponsored family member and all other dependent members of your household. This requires showing proof of an annual income of at least 125% above the poverty guideline.
- You must prove that you have a qualifying family relationship with the foreign national green card beneficiary. A qualifying relationship means being a spouse, child (biological or adopted), or sibling.
- You must maintain your residence in the U.S.
Family-Based Green Card Eligibility Criteria for Foreign Nationals
As a foreign national family-based green card applicant, you must also prove that you have a qualifying family relationship with your sponsor and that you will not become a public charge upon arriving in the U.S. This means your sponsor can support you financially until you can support yourself.
Apart from these criteria, you must not have any issue that will make you inadmissible into the U.S. The United States immigration laws prohibit the issuance of visas to individuals whose presence will threaten the peace, health, or general well-being of the U.S. residents. The following are some of the factors that can make you inadmissible or ineligible for a U.S. green card:
- Having a communicable disease
- Having a serious mental or physical disorder
- Certain past crimes, either in the U.S. or other parts of the world
- Having a substance abuse disorder
- Being a drug trafficker
- Being an illegal immigrant
- Being a terrorist or belonging to a terrorist organization
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.
Family-Based Green Card Processing Time Frequently 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 2022?
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. Wait time can be anywhere from 2-5 years or longer. 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 2022?
The median I-130 processing time for immediate relatives (spouse of a U.S. citizen; unmarried child under 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen; or parent of a U.S. citizen (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older) was 10.2 months. In 2022, the median is 10 months, so processing times have gotten slightly faster.
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 2022?
In 2022, the I-130 median processing time was 10 months. 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 2022?
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. To schedule a consultation with one of their immigration lawyers today, you can simply fill out this contact form.