Obtaining a green card is a major milestone on the path to living and working as a productive, permanent resident of the United States. While there are no guarantees of an expedited timeline, understanding the process, working with a great attorney, and taking proactive steps wherever possible can help you make your way through the immigration system more efficiently.
Generally speaking, the length of the process is influenced by the caseload at the immigration court. Unfortunately, no lawyer can promise a 90-day green card. In fact, the average wait time is significantly longer, even under ideal circumstances.
Obtaining a Green Card: The Basics
To understand why obtaining a U.S. green card often takes months (even years, in some cases), it is useful to outline the typical steps in the process:
- Determine Eligibility: There are a few different pathways to obtaining a green card, such as family sponsorship, employment sponsorship, refugee or asylum status, or through fiscal investment. Before your initial application is ever filed, you will have to put some thought into which category most suits your circumstances.
- File Your Petition: The specific forms and processes for filing a green card petition will also depend on the category you qualify for. Once you’ve sorted that out, you will then need to actually prepare the documentation fully and accurately. Your petition must also include evidence of eligibility, relevant supporting documents, and, of course, be turned in along with the appropriate filing fees.
- Biometrics: After filing your petition, you will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment, where your fingerprints, photograph, and signature will be collected for use in exhaustive background checks. Then you must also wait for this background check to conclude, which can be a lengthy process in some cases.
- Attend Interviews and Appointments: USCIS may additionally require you to attend an interview so that an agent can assess your eligibility for a green card. Prepare thoroughly by reviewing your application and supporting documents, and be ready to answer questions about your background, relationships with U.S. citizens (if applicable), and the various factors behind your desire to reside in the United States.
- Receive the Decision: Once the process is complete, USCIS will notify you of the decision on your green card application. If approved, you will receive your green card, granting you lawful permanent resident status in the United States.
Remember, this process can be far more complex than these 5 simple steps indicate, and individual circumstances vary greatly. It is crucial to seek the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney who can evaluate your case, provide accurate advice, and advocate for the greatest possible outcome.
Accelerating the Green Card Process in California: Tips and Strategies
- Get Familiar With Special Programs and Priority Categories: Certain immigration categories may offer expedited processing if you meet the criteria. For example, individuals with extraordinary abilities in the arts, sciences, or business may qualify for a faster green card process. Researchers whose work benefits the people of the United States may also qualify for a special national interest waiver, meaning that an immigration case can move forward without a specific job offer. Understanding all the priority categories can help you identify potential avenues for expediting your case that you may not have considered.
- Take Advantage of Premium Processing: While premium processing is not available for all green card applications, it can expedite certain employment-based immigration petitions. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers a premium processing service that guarantees a 15-day processing time for eligible applications. This does not mean you will get your green card within a 15-day window, only that the initial application will be processed with guaranteed promptness. Consult with your immigration attorney to determine if your case is eligible for premium processing.
- Look Into the Removal of Conditions: If you currently have a conditional green card, such as a 2-year green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, you may apply for the removal of conditions within 90 days of the card’s expiration. If successful, this effectively turns your conditional green card into a full green card rather than letting it expire. By submitting a well-prepared application with supporting evidence, you can increase the chances of obtaining a full (10-year) green card on a relatively fast timeline when compared to cases that do not transition from a conditional green card.
- Consider Expedited Naturalization: If you are already a green card holder, and meet certain criteria, you may be eligible for a path to expedited naturalization. For example, people who have served in the military, spouses of U.S. citizens employed abroad, and individuals who have performed exceptional service to the United States in some way may qualify for an accelerated naturalization process. Your immigration attorney can help you determine if expedited naturalization is a viable option for you and, if so, build a strategy for making your case to immigration officials.
- Work With a Great Lawyer: The compassionate and highly trained professionals at U.S. Law Center have a knowledge of U.S. immigration law that is broad and deep. We can develop comprehensive legal strategies to meet even the most challenging immigration situations, using our skills and experience to steer you and your family toward the most optimal outcome on the fastest possible timeline.
Q: Will USCIS Speed Up in 2023?
A: While USCIS and other government agencies continuously strive to improve their processes and wait times, it is challenging to predict specific changes in department efficiency for 2023. USCIS periodically implements initiatives to enhance its operations, reduce backlogs, and streamline processes, but external factors, such as caseload fluctuations and changes in immigration policies, can also impact processing times in a negative way. Working with an experienced immigration attorney who stays abreast of all USCIS policy updates and timeline changes can help you maximize your chances of a smooth and timely green card process.
Q: How Long Does It Take to Get a Green Card in 2023?
A: The processing time for obtaining a green card in 2023 will vary from case to case depending on various factors, including the type of green card application, current USCIS workload, eligibility for expedited processing programs, and any extenuating circumstances specific to your case. The process can range from several months to several years. The average processing time for a typical I-130 is currently estimated at just over 12 months for immediate relatives of United States citizens. Family members pursuing a green card through Form I-485 (“Application for Adjustment of Status”) have a very slightly lower average wait time of 11.7 months. For cases that do not involve family members of current U.S. citizens, however, the total processing time is closer to 36 months. Generally speaking, the process will take several months to several years.
Q: How Do I Get a Green Card in Less Than 90 Days?
A: Obtaining a green card in less than 90 days would be extremely challenging and should not be seen as a realistic expectation for most individuals. The green card process involves several steps, including filing a petition with documentation, attending appointments, and waiting out an exhaustive background check process. Many factors contribute to the overall processing timeline, and getting a green card within a 90-day window would require extraordinary circumstances, such as sponsorship at the highest levels of government for reasons of imminent national security. While there are indeed expedited processing options available for many specific immigration situations, such as relatives of U.S. citizens, humanitarian aid reasons, previous USCIS processing errors, or certain employment-based petitions, none of these avenues can guarantee a 90-day turnaround.
Q: Can You Get Your Green Card in 3 Months?
A: Obtaining a green card within a three-month or 90-day timeframe is highly unlikely for most individuals. The green card process typically involves multiple steps and various USCIS processing stages, including:
- Application submission
- Biometrics appointments
- Background checks
These are all taken very seriously by federal authorities. USCIS processing times will additionally vary based on current department workload, case complexity, and many other factors. While certain priority categories and expedited processing programs do exist, they are limited to immigrants facing specific circumstances or falling into extraordinary categories. If you wish to explore whether you may be able to leverage one of these expedited paths to obtaining a green card, consulting with a qualified immigration attorney to assess your eligibility is an ideal first step.
Contact U.S. Law Center for Guidance
If you are seeking to expedite your green card process, or have questions about your immigration journey in California or anywhere else in the United States, U.S. Law Center is here to help. Contact us today for a no-pressure consultation with a highly skilled Riverside Green Card Lawyer.