Green Card Waiting Time by Country 2022

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A "green card" is a U.S. government-issued ID given to foreign-born individuals who have legal permission to live and work permanently in the United States. Green cards, which are officially called Permanent Resident Cards, are issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Although the United States has become more difficult to immigrate to in recent years, it has historically been both easy to immigrate to and the world's leading destination country for immigrants. As such, the green card system receives a high volume of applicants, who come from a vast range of situations. Individuals who wish to apply for a green card must be eligible under one of the eight general categories, some of which have a limited number of green cards available.

The Eight Categories of Green Card Eligibility

  • Green Card through Family — Applicant is the spouse, fiancée, child/stepchild, parent, sibling, widow, or widower of a U.S. citizen.
  • Green Card through Employment — Applicant has sought-after job skills or is investing heavily in a business that will create at least 10 full-time jobs.
  • Green Card as a Special Immigrant — Applicant is working for a nonprofit religious organization, is juvenile who needs protection from an abusive parent, is Afghan or Iraqi national who worked for U.S. government, or meets certain additional criteria as an international broadcaster or employee/retiree of certain international organizations.
  • Green Card through Refugee or Asylum Status — Applicant was admitted as a refugee or given asylum status at least 1 year prior.
  • Green Card for Human Trafficking and Crime Victims — Applicant is a victim of human trafficking or certain other crimes and granted a T or U nonimmigrant visa.
  • Green Card for Victims of Abuse — Applicant is abused spouse, child, or parent of U.S. citizen, Cuban native, or other lawful permanent U.S. resident. Special Immigrant Juveniles are also eligible.
  • Green Card through Other Categories — Applicant meets one of several rare and specific criteria such as being an American Indian born in Canada, a foreign diplomat who cannot return home, or the winner of a green card lottery.
  • Green Card through Registry — Applicant has lived in the U.S. since before Jan 01, 1972.

The green card application process:

  1. An immigrant petition is submitted on behalf of the candidate by a sponsor—in most cases, a U.S. relative or employer. Some applicants (such as investors) may be eligible to file for themselves.
  2. If USCIS approves the immigrant petition, one of two next steps occurs, depending upon the applicant's eligibility category. Those who are immediate spouses, children under 21 years of age, or parents of a U.S. citizen proceed straight to the next step (visa adjudication). Most others must be placed on a waitlist, where they wait until an immigrant visa number in their specific category of eligibility becomes available.
  3. Once an immigrant visa number comes available in the applicant's chosen eligibility category, the applicant proceeds via one of two application processes—an adjustment of status (AOS) or consular processing—depending upon where they currently reside.
  4. The first process (adjustment of status) is designed for applicants who have already legally entered the U.S. (for example, via a temporary work visa). These applicants file an adjustment of status application with the USCIS. (For the second possible process, skip to step 7.)
  5. The USCIS receives the application and researches the applicant. A background check is performed; the applicant's fingerprints, photo, and signature are recorded; the applicant is interviewed; spouses and other sponsors may also be interviewed.
  6. The USCIS makes its decision and mails either a rejection letter or a Green Card to the applicant's most recent address.
  7. The second possible process, consular processing, is designed for applicants who do not yet reside in the United States (or who are otherwise ineligible for an AOS application). The process of screening and interviewing is quite similar, but is performed through representatives at the U.S. consulate or embassy in the applicant's current home country instead of the USCIS.
  8. If the applicant passes the screening process, they are issued an immigrant visa that enables them to travel to the U.S., where they are made a permanent resident upon their arrival and mailed a green card within approximately four months.

The green card system's various queues already include millions of applicants, and many thousands more apply each year. This volume of applications often overwhelms the system and results in months- or years-long wait times for applicants in most categories. To help manage expectations and streamline processing, the U.S. Department of State releases a monthly visa bulletin that indicates when applicants in family- or employment-based categories should submit their documentation to proceed from step 2 to 3 (above). Applicants who have a "priority date" (which they should have received upon filing their initial immigrant petition) earlier than the application date in the chart below may assemble and submit the required documents.

Family-Based Green Card Backlogs (March 2022 bulletin)

F-1: Unmarried Children (21 and Older) of U.S. Citizens

F-2A: Spouses and Unmarried Children (under age 21) of U.S. Green Card Holders

  • General: No wait
  • China (mainland): No wait
  • India: No wait
  • Mexico: No wait
  • Philippines: No wait

F-2B: Unmarried children (age 21 or older) of U.S. Green Card Holders

  • General: 22-Sep-16
  • China (mainland): 22-Sep-16
  • India: 22-Sep-16
  • Mexico: 01-Mar-01
  • Philippines: 01-Oct-13

F-3: Married Children of U.S. Citizens

  • General: 22-Aug-09
  • China (mainland): 22-Aug-09
  • India: 22-Aug-09
  • Mexico: 08-Oct-00
  • Philippines: 01-Oct-03

F-4: Siblings of U.S. Citizens

  • General: 01-Oct-07
  • China (mainland): 01-Oct-07
  • India: 01-Jan-06
  • Mexico: 22-Aug-99
  • Philippines: 01-Feb-04

Employment-Based Green Card Backlogs

EB-1: Extraordinary People, Outstanding Researchers and Professors, and Multinational Executives and Managers

  • General: No wait
  • China (mainland): No wait
  • Central America: No wait
  • India: No wait
  • Mexico: No wait
  • Philippines: No wait

EB-2: Exceptional People and Advanced Degree Holders

  • General: No wait
  • China (mainland): 01-Apr-19
  • Central America: No wait
  • India: 01-Sept-13
  • Mexico: No wait
  • Philippines: No wait

EB-3: Bachelor’s Degree Holders, Skilled Workers, and Unskilled Workers

  • General: No wait
  • China (mainland): 01-Apr-18
  • Central America: No wait
  • India: 22-Jan-12
  • Mexico: No wait
  • Philippines: No wait

EB-4: Special Immigrants

  • General: No wait
  • China (mainland): No wait
  • Central America: 15-May-19
  • India: No wait
  • Mexico: No wait
  • Philippines: No wait
  • Vietnam: No wait

EB-5: Investors

  • General: No wait
  • China (mainland): 15-Dec-15
  • Central America: No wait
  • India: 01-Jan-20
  • Mexico: No wait
  • Philippines: No wait
  • Vietnam: No wait

Green Card Waiting Time by Country 2022

Green Card Waiting Time by Country 2022

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