How Long Will it Take?” and “Are we there yet?” are Common Questions We have When We Think about Filing Green Cards in the USA.
What Is Green Card?
- A green card, known officially as a permanent resident card, is an identity documentwhich shows that a person has permanent residency in the United States
- Green card holders are formally known as lawful permanent residents(LPRs)
- As of 2019, there are an estimated 13.9 million green card holders of whom 9.1 million are eligible to become United States citizens
- Approximately 65,000 of them serve in the S. Armed Forces
Advantages of Green Card
- Green card holders are statutorily entitled to apply for U.S. citizenship after showing by a preponderance of the evidencethat they, among other things, have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years and are persons of good moral character
- Those who are younger than 18 years old automatically derive U.S. citizenship if they have at least one U.S. citizen parent
Why is it Called a “Green Card”?
- The card is known as a “green card” because of its historical greenish color
- It was formerly called a “certificate of alien registration” or an “alien registration receipt card”.
- Absent exceptional circumstances, immigrants who are 18 years of age or older could spend up to 30 days in jail for not carrying their green cards
Lawful permanent residents, also known as green card holders, have certain rights and responsibilities as highlighted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and other federal agencies
- Reside permanently in the United States provided they do not commit actions that would make them removable under the INA
- Join and serve in the United States Armed Forces, including in many law enforcement agencies
- Work anywhere in the United States (with the exception of many federal jobs and some companies under contract by the federal government)
- Be protected equally by the law of the United States, their State of residence, and local jurisdictions
- Travel freely outside the United States for up to one year as a tourist
- Petition for (or sponsor) certain family members to immigrate to the United States as lawful permanent residents. Such family members include spouse and unmarried children of any age
- Required to obey all laws of the United States, including state laws, and localities
- Required to file income tax returns and report income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state taxing authorities
- Register with the Selective Service System(if male and aged 18 through 25)
Why Does It Take So Long to Get a Green Card in the USA?
Principally, there are two reasons:
- There are limits on the number of U.S. green cards (lawful permanent residence) made available under U.S. immigration laws, at least in certain categories
- For many aspiring immigrants, this means they must wait for years after applying—sometimes ten years or more—to become eligible to become a permanent resident.
- Even if one is immediately eligible, or has become eligible, the U.S. immigration bureaucracy tends to move slowly, adding months or even years to the process
Note: The coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in even longer delays in every part of the immigration process
- As of May 2020, completing the green card process is impossible for most people, regardless of whether they are living in the U.S. or coming from overseas, owing to U.S. government office closures to in-person visits
Are There Limits to Every Category OF Green Card?
- No limits apply to the number of green cards that can be issued to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens
- Immediate relatives include the U.S. citizen’s parents (if the citizen is over age 21), spouse, and unmarried children under the age of 21
- Similarly, no limits currently apply to the number of people who can gain a green card based on asylee or refugee status.
Green Card Quota
- Both family and employment preference-based green cards are subjected to these quota system
- All legal immigrants face a second type of wait between their sponsor’s petition and their own application: the time it takes for a green card to become available under the immigration quotas
- Because Congress limited the number of green cards for certain types of immigrants, not everyone who receives an approval after the first wait can apply for a green card immediately
- It is analogous to standing at the deli, and waiting for your number to called
- The immigration categories with quotas and waiting lists are the “preference categories.”
- The preference quota categories account for a third of all permanent immigration to the United States — about 366,000 slots annually
What Are Country Limits?
- These nationality-based quotas are known as the country limits
- The country limits result in each nationality waiting in lines that move at different speeds within each category
- The wait time for Mexican siblings of U.S. citizens is different from that of Filipino siblings of U.S. citizens, and both wait times differ from those of Mexican or Filipino spouses of legal permanent residents
- Four nationalities — Indians, Chinese, Filipinos, and Mexicans — reach the country limits, due to huge demand, and larger population
- When a nationality reaches the country limit, nationals of other countries pass them in the line
Effect of Country Quota
- These immigration lines are known as preference categories because the system prioritizes applicants according to different family and employment “preferences.”
- Each month, the State Department publishes the Visa Bulletin, which informs immigrants who entered the line before a certain date that they may now apply for a green card
- The country limits — which cap the number of green cards for any particular nationality at 7 percent of the total number often artificially inflate the longest waits, while artificially deflating the averagewait
- This deflation effect happens because, once a nationality bumps up against the country limit, nationals from other countries pass them in the line
Special Note About 7 Percent Allotment
- There is further limitation to this 7 percent allotment to each country, it is an allowable maximum, not a guaranteed number
- Applicants from a single country that has not used up its 7 percent green card allotment can still be prevented from getting green cards if the worldwide quota has been exhausted
- Hence, there are currently waiting periods in many preference categories
- The wait times are especially long for people attempting to immigrate from China, Mexico, India, and the Philippines, due to the high demand from those countries
- In addition to the fixed worldwide totals, 50,000 extra green cards are given each year through the ethnic diversity visa or lottery category
- Qualifying countries and the number of green cards available to each country are determined each year according to a formula
For more on eligibility and further information on how long you might wait for a green card:
Obtaining Green Card is complex and time-sensitive procedure. It is also dependent on a lot of variables, based on your unique situation.
To get a better idea of what your processing time will be, you can fill out this contact form and schedule your consultation with one of our attorneys, or
You can also get an Idea about The median processing Time for All USCIS Offices for Select Forms by Fiscal Year (2017-2021) April 2021 that is.