Green Card Processing Times

If you are planning to stay in the United States for a very long time, you will need a document that will make your stay in the country a legal one. This document is called the Green Card. The Green Card will offer you the opportunity to permanently stay in the US and enjoy a lot of benefits US citizens enjoy. However, the process of obtaining a Green Card can often be accompanied by lengthy waiting periods and complex steps. It is, therefore, necessary to become familiar with the green card processing time so as to be well prepared and ensure better navigation of the process. In this blog post, we will walk you through the processing times for each type of green card.

Green Card Processing Times

In case you are wondering how long it takes to process a green card, the following green card processing times will guide you through the four main types of green cards (or methods of obtaining a green card). It is therefore crucial that you plan your application and apply as soon as possible.

Employment-Based Green Card

There are over 120,000 employment visas issued in the United States each year. These employment visas are sought by individuals who have a job offer or have demonstrated exceptional working ability in their respective fields. The processing times for each employment-based green card category vary based on the specific preference category and demand.

Generally, the average processing time for this category ranges from several months to a few years. Factors such as visa availability, backlogs, and the complexity of an applicant’s case can influence the time it will take to process the green card. These visas are, however, divided into five green card categories:


EB-1 visa, otherwise known as the Employment-Based Extraordinary Ability Green Card, is a type of permanent residency for immigrants with extraordinary abilities in fields such as sciences, business, and other categories. The processing time for this EB-1 green card takes approximately 8 months after an applicant has filled out the Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers’ Form (form I-140). It may also take another additional 6 months before the applicant can finally receive the visa.


The second type of employment-based green card is the EB-2 visa. It is the type of green card issued to immigrants seeking advanced degrees and permanent residence or those with employment-based exceptional abilities. The applicants must possess a post-secondary school degree, diploma, or certificate and must possess exceptional ability in his or her field. The applicant must also have at least 10 years of full-time experience in the field and must be a member of a professional association. The processing time for this type is usually 18 months. However, the processing time can be longer depending on the applicant’s home country.


EB-3 visas are those issued to professional and skilled immigrants looking to live and work in the United States for a long time or permanently. This visa type is not as strict as the first two employment-based visas: EB-1 and EB-2. The processing time for EB-3 visas may take between 12 to 36 months.


The EB-4 visa is a green card category issued to foreign nationals who fall under the special immigrant category. Religious workers, special immigrant juveniles, certain broadcasters, certain retired officers or employees of a G-4 international organization or NATO-6 civilian employees and their family members, and so on are those who qualify for the EB-4 green card. The processing time for the EB-4 visa category can take anywhere between a few months to four years to obtain this visa.


The EB-5 visa is the last type of employment-based green card category. It is issued to investors and their spouses and unmarried children below 21 years. It enables them to become eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence and become Green Card holders as long as they satisfy the necessary investment requirements in the US.

The processing time for this category can take between two and a half years to five years.

Diversity Immigrant Visa

Diversity Immigrant Visa is a program administered by the US Department of State. It provides opportunities for individuals from countries with a low rate of immigration to the US to apply for permanent residence (green card) through a random lottery selection. The program usually involves six steps. It starts with applicants submitting their entries, and after that, the applicants will be randomly selected.

Selected applicants will have their qualifications confirmed and submit their applications. They also need to submit their supporting documents, after which interviews will be conducted. Individuals who are lucky enough to win the lottery program will have to wait for about seven months before receiving their green card.

Refugee/Asylum-based green cards

These are green cards issued to individuals who have fled their home countries due to life-threatening issues or persecution. This opportunity usually comes in two pathways: refugee status and asylum status. Refugees apply for refugee status while outside their home countries, and if approved, they can be relocated to the US and receive a refugee-based green card. Asylum seekers, on the other hand, are those who are already in the US or those who arrive at a US entry port but, due to a fear of life-threatening reasons, are unable to return to their home country.

However, they must demonstrate a well-founded fear of prosecution and apply for asylum within a year of their arrival in the US. If their asylum is approved, they can also obtain an asylum-based green card to live and work in the US without fear. The processing time for this category of green card is usually under a year after the applicant’s successful application for asylum or refuge in the US.

Family-Based Green Cards

Family-based green cards are issued to family members of US citizens or individuals holding green cards in the US. There are various types of green cards available through family sponsorship, and as a result, the processing times for each type may vary.

However, there are two major categories: Family Preference Visas and Marriage Visas.

Family Preference Visa

Family preference visas are for individuals who want to immigrate to the US to join their family members. The family member joining the US citizen or Green Card holder must be a very close relative such as a parent, sibling, or child. Extended family members are not opportune to apply for Green Card through family preference, except if they can also find a close family member to apply through.

The family member sponsoring their immigration must, however, have legal status in the country, either as a permanent resident or through citizenship. However, the time it takes to get a Green Card through family preference usually ranges from 1 year to 10 years.

Marriage Green Card

The marriage green card is issued to foreign nationals who are married to US citizens or green card holders. The processing time is usually between 10 months and about 38 months. The applicant for the marriage green card will receive the IR-1 visa, which is known as the marriage green card. However, the processing time can be longer depending on the applicant’s location.


Obtaining a green card in the US is a life-changing event as it opens up many opportunities beyond those available to temporary residents in the country. However, it is important to be aware of the average process times for the different types of green card categories so that intending applicants can manage their expectations and plan their migration journey accordingly.