The average time it takes to get a green card through marriage is between 11 months to 14.5 months, depending on 3 main factors that impact the green card timeline, which are:
- The status of the petitioner (if the petitioner is a U.S. Citizen or a Permanent Resident),
- Where the beneficiary is (in the U.S. or outside the U.S.), and
- The service center that the application is sent to.
In the following article we will discuss each one of these cases, and we will also go over other circumstances that might affect the processing times:
Which are the main factors that impact the Marriage Green Card Timeline?
There are 3 main factors that have a major impact on the Green Card timeline: The status of the petitioner, where the beneficiary is located and the service center that will process the application. Let’s explain each one:
1) Status of the Petitioner Spouse (U.S. Citizen vs Permanent Resident):
The petitioner is the U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident (PR) who files a petition on behalf of a foreign national. If the petitioner is a U.S. Citizen, the process will be faster than if the petitioner is only a Permanent Resident.
For example, the following table shows the processing times for the I-130 form for both cases in the California Service Center:
We can see that if the petitioner is a Permanent Resident, the processing times are between 12.5 months to 16 months. On the other hand, If the petitioner is a U.S. Citizen, the processing times are only 11 months to 14.5 months.
2) Where is the Beneficiary Spouse? (in the U.S. or abroad):
The second factor that has an impact in the processing times is whether the beneficiary is in the U.S. or abroad. The beneficiary is the foreign national for whom the application is being filed for. For practical reasons, we will assume you are the beneficiary for the rest of this article.
If you are in the U.S. it’s good news as the filing can take place while you are here and it will be faster. One of the reasons it will be faster is because you can file the I-130 petition for alien relative form and the I-485 Adjustment of Status form together in your application.
The average processing times for this case are:
- If the petitioner is a U.S. Citizen: 9 to 12 months on average
- If the petitioner is a PR: 12 to 16 months on average.
Now, what to do if you are outside the United States? You will have to do what’s called “Consular Processing”, which basically means that part of the processing will take place at your home country’s consulate.
In this case, the process goes a little bit different since you can no longer file the I-130 and I-485 together. So first, your spouse will have to file the I-130 petition for alien relative on your behalf. Once USCIS reviews it, if there is no RFE (Request for Evidence) issued and the petition is approved, the case will be sent to the NVC (National Visa Center) which will assign you a case number. Currently for USC petitioners (priority date is always current) as well as Permanent Resident petitioner, priority date is current and can go immediately to the next step. At the NVC stage, you will have to pay the filing fees as well as update information and send civil documents so that the NVC can send your case to the respective consulate at the beneficiary’s home country where he/she will be scheduled for an interview.
3) The Local Field Office Processing Times for Adjustment:
The final main factor that will determine the processing time for your marriage based green card application is where you and your spouse reside. Once USCIS completes the background check your case is sent to the field local field office.
Assuming you are filing the I-130 and I-485 petitions concurrently, the following are the estimated processing times for each local field office as for now:
- Los Angeles, CA: 10 to 33.5 months
- Los Angeles County, CA: 9.5 to 29.5 months
- San Fernando Valley, CA: 9.5 to 29.5 months
- Las Vegas, NV: 9.5 to 29.5 months
- San Diego, CA: 10 to 32 months
- San Francisco, CA: 9.5 to 29.5 months
- San Bernardino, CA: 9.5 to 29.5 months
- New York, NY: 9.5 to 30.5 months
- Chicago, IL: 9 to 26.5 months
- Detroit, MI: 8.5 to 35.5 months
Now, if you are not filing concurrently, and you are only filing the I-130 (the case of consular processing for example), the processing times for your I-130 application will be determined by the service center your application is sent to.
There are five (5) Service Centers in total: California, Nebraska, Potomac, Texas and Vermont and each one of them has jurisdiction over certain types of applications, and also territory. For the I-130 for example, every Service Center has jurisdiction, so every service center is allowed to process this application. In this case, the service center your application is sent to will be determined by the state you reside in. For your reference, if you reside in California, Nevada, Arizona or Hawaii, your I-130 will be processed at the California Service Center.
Each Service Center also has different processing times which may vary depending on their workload.
The following are the processing times of the I-130 petition for each service center as for now:
For the California Service Center, as mentioned before, the processing times are:
- 12.5 months to 16 months if the petitioner is a Permanent Resident
- 11 to 14.5 months if the petitioner is a U.S. citizen
For the Nebraska Service Center, the processing times are:
- 12.5 months to 16 months if the petitioner is a Permanent Resident
- 6.5 to 8.5 months if the petitioner is a U.S. citizen
For the Potomac Service Center, the processing times are:
- 17 months to 22 months if the petitioner is a Permanent Resident
- 9 to 11.5 months if the petitioner is a U.S. citizen
For the Texas Service Center, the processing times are:
- 67.5 months to 88 months if the petitioner is a Permanent Resident
- 6 to 7.5 months if the petitioner is a U.S. citizen
For the Vermont Service Center, the processing times are:
- 17.5 months to 22.5 months if the petitioner is a Permanent Resident
- 21 to 27.5 months if the petitioner is a U.S. citizen
What if the beneficiary spouse entered legally but overstayed their visa?
If you were lawfully admitted to the country but then overstayed your visa, you can still apply for an adjustment of status as long as you are marrying a U.S. Citizen.
Here, you have to be careful with the period you have overstayed and you leaving/coming back to the country. If you overstayed your visa for more than 180 days (but less than 1 year), you are subject to a 3-year bar if you depart the United States. If you overstayed your visa for more than 1 year, then you are subject to a 10-year bar if you depart the U.S.
So how does this affect the timeline? Well, given the bars you may face if you depart the country, the consular processing option is of course off the table. If you overstayed your visa, your only option is to adjust status from within the country, so the correspondent processing times would apply.
What if the beneficiary is in the U.S. but entered without inspection?
If you entered the U.S. without inspection, you would have to leave the country to be eligible to receive the Green Card. Depending on how much time you were unlawfully present in the U.S., you may face the 3 or 10 years bars which would not allow you to come back if you leave. This is when a waiver comes to play, specifically the I-601A waiver. This waiver, if approved of course, grants you a pardon for your unlawful presence so this way your application won’t get denied at the consulate based on the grounds of unlawful presence inadmissibility.
How does this affect the timeline? Well, until a few years ago (2013), people in this situation used to have to leave the country so a waiver could be filed and it would be months, maybe years before they could come back and families would be split for all this time. Since the proclamation made in 2013, the I-601A waiver can be filed while you are still in the country, and only once it has been approved and you have been scheduled for an interview, you leave the country. This reduces the amount of time that families have to spend apart and it also gives immigrants more confidence.
The I-601A waiver can take about 12 to 18 months to be processed and then another 3 additional months for the interview to be scheduled. The I-601A Waiver can only be filed after an I-130 is approved therefore, the total time is about 2 to 2 ½ years.
How long does it take in case of an RFE?
RFE stands for Request For Evidence, and it basically means that your application is lacking some kind of evidence for the immigration officers to make a decision on it. It doesn’t mean that your application is denied, it just means that it is incomplete and you are being offered the chance to fix it. RFEs are usually issued around 3 months after the application is submitted, and you have 30 to 90 days to respond to it. If this happens, please add 30 to 90 days to your timeline as it is the time you will take to respond to the RFE.
How much time should it take if the petitioner is going through a divorce?
We mention this case because from now and then we get calls asking about how the green card process works for cases in which the petitioner split paths with his/her former spouse years ago, but never actually finalized the divorce procedures! If the petitioner is still going through a divorce, you need to wait until he has the final divorce decree to get married again.
How long does it take for ILOLA to file the application?
We usually take about 2 weeks to file our client cases from the time we receive the requested documents and the completed questionnaire. The attorneys at the Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles (ILOLA), will take care of your case as if it was their own, so you can have peace of mind that everything is being done with a level of care, proficiency, and detail orientation that only experience can give you.
If you, or your spouse, are looking to apply for a spousal Green Card, contact the Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles (ILOLA). With more than 80 years of combined experience, 35,000 cases approved, a 99.9% Approval Rate, and a 5 Star rating on Google, we are the best option to secure your future in the U.S.
Give us a call at (213) 375-4084 or (800) 792-9889
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