Average Green Card Processing Times


Find out how long it takes to get a family-based green card


sample green card

Even if you’re confident that you qualify for a family-based green card, you’re probably eager to finish the process and actually hold the green card in your hand. Unfortunately, family-based green cards are not issued overnight — applying for and receiving your green card takes time.

Exactly how much time it takes depends on a number of factors, including what type of family relationship is the basis for your green card eligibility, whether your relative holds U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residence, where you are from, where you are applying for the green card as well as whether or not U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has to ask for additional evidence while it is deciding your case. In this article we’ll cover how long it takes to get a green card through family relationships. There are other ways to get a green card, such as through employment or as a refugee, but the process and timeline for getting a green card in those circumstances is very different.

If you’d like to get an idea for how long you can expect to wait for your family-based green card, though, read on.

Keep in mind that USCIS processing times frequently change.


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Start-to-Finish Timelines for Family Based Green Cards


Regardless of what the relationship is between the sponsor (the U.S. citizen or green card holder family member) and the beneficiary (the person applying for the green card), getting a family-based green card involves the following steps:

  • File Form I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative”), proving the family relationship
  • File Form I-485 (“Application for Adjustment of Status”), if the beneficiary is in the United States
  • File Form DS-260 (“Immigrant Visa Application”), if the beneficiary is outside the United States

The main factor in how long it takes to get a green card is how long you have to wait between filing the family relationship form and applying for the green card.

Spouses of U.S. Citizens

Start-to-finish timeline: 10-17 months to obtain green card

If your spouse is a U.S. citizen and you currently live in the United States, it takes on average 10-13 months to get a marriage-based green card. Spouses of U.S. citizens living in the United States can file their I-130 and their I-485 at the same time.

If your spouse is a U.S. citizen and you currently live outside the United States, it takes on average 11-17 months to get a marriage-based green card.

Spouses of Green Card Holders

Start-to-finish timeline: 23-38 months

Spouses of green card holders will have to wait for a green card to become available after their sponsor files form I-130 and before they can apply for a green card from either within the United States or at a U.S. consulate abroad. In most cases, it takes about two years for a green card to become available, and the entire process takes around three years. It can take slightly longer for citizens of Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines.

If your spouse is a green card holder and you currently live in the United States, then you will wait about 29-38 months to receive your green card.

If your spouse is a green card holder and you currently live outside the United States, then you will wait about 23-32 months to receive your green card.

Widows of U.S. Citizens

Start-to-finish timeline: 10-13 months

Widows and widowers of U.S. citizens can apply for a green card as long as they apply within two years of their spouse’s death. The application process and timeline is similar to the marriage-based green card process for spouses of U.S. citizens, but instead of the I-130, family relationship form, widows and widowers will file Form I-360 (“Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant”).

Parents of U.S. Citizens

Start-to-finish timeline: 10-13 months

Like spouses of U.S. citizens, there is no limit on the number of green cards that can be given to parents of U.S. citizens. As a result, parents of U.S. citizens can usually get a green card within a year of applying for a family-based green card.

Minor (under age 21) Children of U.S. Citizens

Start-to-finish timeline: 10-13 months

Like spouses and parents of U.S. citizens, there is no limit on the number of green cards that can be given to U.S. citizens’ children who are under 21 years old. Minor children of U.S. citizens can usually get a green card in about a year or less after starting the green card application process.

Minor (under age 21) Children of Green Card Holders

Start-to-finish timeline: 23-38 months

Minor children of green card holders will have to wait for a green card to become available after their sponsor files form I-130 and before they can apply for a green card from either within the United States or at a U.S. consulate abroad. Minor children of green card holders fall into the same category as spouses of green card holders, and so have a relatively shorter wait than other categories. In most cases, it takes about two years for a green card to become available, and the entire process takes around three years. It can take slightly longer for citizens of Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines.

Unmarried, Adult Children of U.S. Citizens

Start-to-finish timeline: 7-8 years; 10+ years for citizens of the Philippines; 20+ years for citizens of Mexico

Adult children of U.S. citizens have to wait for a green card to become available after their U.S. citizen parent has filed the I-130 on their behalf. The wait can be substantial, especially for citizens of Mexico.

Unmarried Adult Children of Green Card Holders

Start-to-finish timeline: 8-9 years; 10+ years for citizens of the Philippines; 20+ years for citizens of Mexico

Married Adult Children of U.S. Citizens

Start-to-finish timeline: 13-14 years; 22+ years for citizens of the Philippines and Mexico

Siblings of U.S. Citizens

Start-to-finish timeline: 14-16 years; 16+ years for citizens of India; 20+ years for citizens of Mexico; 24+ years for citizens of the Philippines

There are limits on the number of people who can come to the United States every year in all of the family-based green card categories except the spouses, parents, and minor children of U.S. citizens. Everyone else has to wait in line for a green card to become available. For more information about how this system works and how to check your spot in the line, read this resource page about the Visa Bulletin.

There’s no one answer for “How long does it take to get a green card?” The timeline depends not only on how the sponsor and beneficiary are related, but also on each individual’s circumstances and your home country. Sometimes, USCIS has to ask for more information before processing an application — which always adds additional time to the process. In all cases, though, the sooner you submit the initial application the sooner you or your family member will get a green card.