One of the most common questions that a prospective client will ask us is, how long it takes for their husband or wife to get a green card? The answer, unfortunately, is not so simple. At the outset, it is important to acknowledge that there are a number of unpredictable factors and variables that directly impact a person's marriage based green card application. For one, there is administrative processing time. If USCIS is flooded with applications for a particular category, processing times will inevitably slow down, as there is more demand than labor ready to accommodate the influx. In other instances, there will be unpredictable problems with immigration's own internal procedures, such as what happened recently a few months ago with the National Visa Center in which complications with new software ended up causing sixty day delays in processing. And then there are volatile political conditions, which, in a moment, can affect whether a US embassy can safely operate.
Putting those factors aside, the first question that we need to clarify is whether the petitioner (the person filing) is a US citizen or lawful permanent resident ("green card holder") of the US. If the petitioner is a US Citizen, his or her spouse will be considered an Immediate Relative. The good news about this is that Immediate Relatives are not subject to visa quotas. On the other hand, if the petitioner is a lawful permanent resident, then his or her husband or wife will be considered a preference relative. Preference Relatives fall under category F2A on the Visa Bulletin and are, unfortunately, subject to numerical visa restrictions.
The second issue to determine is whether the beneficiary (the person being filed for) is doing a domestic or foreign application for his/her green card. If he or she is doing a case from within the United States, then he or she is filing an adjustment of status case. On the other hand, if the person is abroad or for some reason, does not qualify to process the case here in the US-which one should never assume is a given-then he/she will have to undergo a consular processing procedure for a visa.
Having said that, the wait times are coming out to the following:
Adjustment of Status cases
· for spouses of US citizens and lawful permanent residents whose priority dates are current: three to six months
Consular Processing cases
· for spouses of US citizens: ten to twelve months
· for spouses of lawful permanent residents: twenty four months and longer since the priority dates for this category is currently, as of October 2014, approximately two years behind.
Not just about numbers and time
Keep in mind, these processing times are not official processing times. They are empirical processing times based on our own experience. Secondly, while they might give you a rough idea (which is the point of this article), they certainly should not be relied upon because things can change at any month. What used to take three months can easily be pushed back to one year with a change in policy or breakdown somewhere along the line. And perhaps even more importantly, processing times should not be the paramount consideration for an immigration visa or adjustment application for a spouse's green card. It is critical to understand first whether a foreign-born husband or wife qualifies and is eligible for a green card in the first place. Only after safely concluding that the spouse is eligible for permanent residence should one then investigate how long it takes to process the application. I have said it before but always bears repeating that immigration is exceedingly complex. It is not just filling out forms. Mistakes have real life consequences and in a marriage case, that's certainly something you don't want to fool around with.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the "Subscribe To This Blog's Feed" button on the left. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the "Case Evaluation" box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.