Family-Based Green Cards —Eligibility, Process, and Timelines

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A family-based immigration visa is one of the most common routes for people to receive green cards and become permanent residents in the United States. Citizens and permanent residents can apply to the USCIS for an immigrant visa for family members.

 

This visa category accounts for almost two-thirds of the more than one million green cards granted yearly. Like any other immigrant visa, the family-based green card has numerous subclasses, each defined by the familial link between the sponsor and the visa beneficiary. Consult a Texas business immigration attorney for more. 

 

Types of green cards that are family-based 

 

The primary categories of family-based green cards are the direct relative and family preference categories. Green card applications are handled differently for each of these two groups. The relationship between the beneficiary and the visa petitioner will determine the procedures and processing time of the application.

  • Immediate Relative Immigrant (IR) Visas

 

Close relatives of U.S. citizens are eligible for this sort of visa. The subcategory is superior to other types of family-based visas since there is no restriction on the number of visas that may be awarded in a year, and it also has the quickest adjudication procedure. 

  • Family Preference Immigrant Visas

 

It is just for family members of lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens. Unlike the immediate related subcategory, family preference green cards have a numerical limit and can only be awarded a certain amount each year.

 

Once a fiscal year’s limit has been surpassed, more applicants must wait in a visa line. Depending on the visa backlogs in each category, the waiting period might last months or years. 

 

How much time does it take to get a green card?

 

The process of obtaining a green card varies based on the type of application and the availability of USCIS resources. The processing time can range from 14 to 40 months for marriage green cards or spousal visas. Green cards for family members are rarely awarded overnight, and processing time for permanent residence cards might range from a few months to many years. 

 

The wait time for spouses and immediate relatives of U.S. citizens applying within the U.S. through adjustment of status is currently 12.5-20.5 months, while for spouses of U.S. green card holders, other relatives, and employment-based green cards, the wait can be longer, typically two years or more. 

 

For spouses and immediate relatives applying from outside the U.S. via consular processing, the wait is 14-15 months. All other green card categories are subject to country caps, and wait times vary significantly. 

 

Unfortunately, the timing for obtaining a green card depends on the relationship between the sponsor and the recipient and each individual’s circumstances and home country. USCIS may need to request extra information before processing an application, which adds time to the process.

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