For spouses, minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens, there is no waiting list for a green card. As long as these relatives are approved for permanent residency — which by itself can take over a year in processing time — they don’t have to wait any longer.
It’s a different story for other family-sponsored immigrants. Right now, there is a waiting list of nearly 4 million people in line for green cards subject to the annual cap of 226,000. The overwhelming majority are relatives of U.S. citizens, especially siblings.
Breaking out this waiting list by country of origin, by far the largest category is Mexican siblings of U.S. citizens. Other relatively large categories include Mexican adult children of permanent residents; Mexican married children of U.S. citizens; and Bangladeshi, Chinese, and Indian siblings of U.S. citizens.
The vast majority of these family-sponsored green card applicants are living abroad while they wait.
At the same time, beyond the nearly 4 million people described above, there are around another 827,000 people waiting in line for an employer-sponsored green card. Most of them are Chinese and Indian workers and their families, who are already living and working in the United States with temporary status such as an H-1B visa.
Learn more in our 2019 family-based immigration report.