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How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?

  • POSTED: September 21, 2018
  • CATEGORY:
  • POSTED BY: LawrenceGruner

How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?

I am often asked by potential clients : How long does it take to get a green card for my spouse?  (This article deals with spousal green cards, not other family based green cards or employment based green cards.  Those types of green cards are outside of the scope of this article.  If you wish to pursue those types of green cards simply call or email us for a free consultation.)

The wait time for a green card for your spouse depends on where your spouse is located and what is your immigration status.

If you are a U.S. Citizen and your spouse is in the United States and is also eligible to file while in the United States the wait time is currently 6-12 months.  This is based on the current time line we are observing in the Northern California immigration offices.

If you are a U.S. Citizen and your spouse is abroad the current wait time is about 12-14 months.   This is a moving average and it can take longer for your case to complete.  (In fact, given the way things are going, I would not be surprised if these types of cases start to take even longer to complete.  I could be wrong as some types of cases, which were taking longer in 2017 seem to be moving quicker in 2018.  However, these are the exceptions and not the rules.) The 12-14 month wait period  assumes that you file everything correctly in your green card case and are not from a country which USCIS considers to be a high fraud area.  If you do not file things correctly with USCIS or make mistakes during the process the case will be delayed several months or longer.

If you are a permanent resident, the current wait time for your spouse to obtain a green card while she is out of the United States is currently over 2 years.  (As noted above a U.S. Citizen will only have a wait time of 12-14 months to obtain a green card for his or her spouse.  Thus, it may, make sense to become a U.S. Citizen in order to expedite the process.)

If you are a permanent resident and your spouse is in the United States and you would like to apply for a green card for him please call our office to discuss.

If you are a permanent resident but you are eligible to become a U.S. Citizen it may make sense to apply for your citizenship and, at the same time, file for your spouse as a permanent resident.  You can ask USCIS to expedite your spouse’s case once you become a U.S. Citizen. ( If you naturalize you can ask USCIS to upgrade your petition to reflect their status as a US Citizen.) Definitely talk to an immigration attorney if you are in this situation as it may or may not be in your best interests to choose this path.

The above timeline assumes that you are filing a quality case.  If you have mistakes, are missing evidence or have other problems  in your case then the case will take longer.  Also, if the marriage green card interview does not go well the case may be delayed several months or even longer.  Thus, it is vitally important that you are well prepared for your green card interview and you do everything in your power to do well at this interview.

If your interview does not go well , and you are in the United States for your interview, you will likely have to undergo a second “fraud” interview.  This interview is much more intimate and can, and likely will, go on for a long time (possibly hours).  You will be separated from your spouse during this interview.  You will each be asked the same questions and your answers will be compared for accuracy.  This is likely going to be a very stressful day for you. You do not want to go through this.  Make sure you thoroughly prepare and do well the first time around.

Can I pay an Extra Fee to Expedite the Process?

Surprisingly, I am asked this question regularly.  U.S. Citizens are ready and willing to pay an extra $1000 or more to USCIS in the form of fees if their spouse can come to the United States sooner.  While there is a way to see if your H-1b case can process sooner by paying extra fees (premium processing) unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, this option is not available in spouse green card cases.  This could change.  However, as of today, it is not available.  The best way to bring your spouse here quicker is to retain a quality immigration law firm which is not going to make mistakes to delay your case.  The law firm will be able to anticipate and resolve trouble areas prior to your case being filed and also resolve any issues should they arise in your case.

Will Mistakes really delay my case?

The very short answer is yes.  Usually when mistakes are made in a case the delay is between 3-6 months overall.  This means that a well filed petition would have resulted in your spouse being with you 90 to 180 days sooner.  These are days that are simply lost to the two of you.  I have had cases that were brought to me after the case had been denied at the interview.  My office was able to successfully re-file the case but the client was simply out 9 months of time.  One time I met with a very intelligent man who I believe was a software engineer.  His case had been delayed over 2 years as he kept running into problems during the process.  He finally had enough and decided to make an appointment with my firm.  I went through his paperwork and I was able to spot the problem areas in his case.  We were able to successfully handle his case and his wife was in the United States with him very quickly.  Needless to say they were both very happy.

Will the timelines be shorter in the future?

Yes and No. (I sound like a politician I know.)  Timelines for immigration cases have varied over the years.  For example, when I first started practicing immigration law almost 25 years ago, naturalization cases were taking about 2 years to complete in northern California. Under the combined Bush and Obama administrations (16 years) naturalization cases seemed to be taking about 4 months to complete on average.  Currently these cases in northern California are taking about a year to complete.  The timeline seems to be based primarily on who the current U.S. President is, what is that administration’s stance on immigration, and the volume of cases being filed.  The volume of cases being filed is probably a reflection of the administration’s stance on immigration.  Many people are concerned when they believe that they may lose immigration benefits so they want to file their immigration case in order to protect themselves.

In the short term I believe that the wait times for spousal green card cases is going to be as long, if not longer, than the wait times of today.  The current stance of USCIS is more diligent than what it has been in the past.  Cases are reviewed more thoroughly for problem areas.  As a result wait times have increased.

The long term wait times will be based on future  USCIS policies and case volume.

 

Lawrence Gruner is a Sacramento Immigration Lawyer with over 20 years of experience handling immigration cases.  His office handles fiance visa cases, green card cases, and naturalization cases in California, the United States and the World.  He would be happy to talk to you about your immigration case.  You can email him at attorneygruner@gmail.com or call him at 916-760-7270 or 888-801-6558.  He would be happy to help you come up with an immigration plan for your case.

This article is for general informational purposes only.  It is not intended to take the place of an attorney evaluation of your case.  You should always have an experienced immigration attorney review your case prior to doing anything. Do not rely on your friends, well meaning family members, notarios , immigration consultants or others for your immigration advice.  The stakes are simply too high.  You should always speak to an immigration attorney prior to filing any documents with USCIS.  Failure to do so can lead to very severe consequences.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?
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