The decision to move to another country and become a permanent resident is a big one. Whether you’re looking for a new opportunity in the United States or are planning to join a family member or loved one, you aren’t alone in making that important decision. Each year, millions of people from around the world apply to become green card holders. However, only around a million green card applications are approved each year, which leaves many applicants with the question: how long does the green card process take?

green card process

Green Card Timelines

The green card process looks different for everyone. That’s because there are different types of green cards available depending on your circumstances. For example, someone marrying a U.S. citizen has a different wait time than someone seeking an employment-based green card. Each type of green card has a different application process, forms, and requirements in order to be eligible as determined by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Family-Based Green Cards

A family-based green card is available to immediate family members and spouses of a U.S. citizen or green card holder.You are eligible to apply for a marriage-based green card if you marry a U.S. citizen or green card holder. Processing times can vary depending on whether you’re applying from within or outside of the United States. You’ll need a marriage license or certificate and documents from both spouses before applying. Once you fill out the proper forms, you’re required to attend an interview with USCIS; from there, the processing time can vary from nine months to more than three years. 

Other family members, such as minor children, adult children, siblings, and parents may be eligible to apply for a green card. Applicants can reside abroad or in the United States on a visa, and again, wait times can vary greatly. Keep in mind that residents of some countries like China, Mexico, and India face much longer wait times than foreign nationals of other countries – over 10 years in some cases. 

Employment-Based Green Cards

Those looking to work in the U.S. permanently must apply for an employment-based green card. When it comes to employment visas and green cards, USCIS gives different preferences to different categories of employees. Those in a specialized profession or with exceptional abilities, such as physicians and scientists, often get preference over other types of workers. Because preference plays a role in employment-based green cards, the processing time differs from person to person. Each step of the process takes time, but you can expect processing to take between six months and four years or more.


There are other types of green cards, including those obtained in a diversity lottery or for returning green card holders. Consulting with an attorney can give you a better idea of how long your green card application will take to be processed. 

How to Get Help With Your Green Card

Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward timeline for the green card process. Although wait times may vary, you can ensure a smooth application process with the assistance of an immigration lawyer at CoxEsq., P.C. Our experienced attorneys have over 20 years of experience supporting clients through the green card process. We can help you every step of the way to ensure you’re on the right path toward living and working in the United States as a permanent resident. Contact CoxEsq., P.C. today to schedule a free case evaluation and learn more about how soon you can obtain your green card.