The REAL Timeline For A Marriage Green Card! (2024 Update)

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The REAL Timeline For A Marriage Green Card! (2024 Update)

The timeline for your marriage based green card depends on many different factors. The two biggest factors include whether you are married a US citizen versus a green card holder and whether you are inside the United States or outside the United States. The difference between these two timelines can be very large, so it is important to understand what the differences are and what can affect the timeline.


The first step in any marriage based green card case is the step of filing the Form I-130 Petition for an Alien Relative. This is a form that is technically submitted by your spouse, aka the sponsor, and this will establish your eligibility category upon which you will either get your green card or your immigrant visa. Once you file your I-130 with USCIS, they will issue a case number or a receipt number on an official notice that is sent to you by mail and which sometimes you can get online if you have an electronically processed case.

Usually it takes between four to six weeks to receive this receipt, but sometimes you can get it as soon as two weeks. You can then use this receipt number to track your case through the online portal at, and you can also use this to track your case through a My USCIS account. Once your I-130 is received, if USCIS determines that something is missing that is required, they will notify you through what is called a request for evidence, and this can typically come anywhere from three to six months even after your I-130 is filed.

This can slow down your case progress considerably. That is why it is important to make sure that you read the instructions closely for the Form I-130 when submitting your application to make sure that you're not missing any required documentation that USCIS has requested in advance. According to the most recent data available, USCIS is taking anywhere from 12 to 18 months to process an I-130, and this is just for the I-130s submitted by U.S. citizens. The average processing time when the I-130 is submitted by a green card holder is 25 to 30 months.

Married To U.S. Citizen Inside U.S.

Now, if you are both living in the U.S. and already married to a U.S. citizen, you're in luck because these are often the types of cases that are processed the most quickly by USCIS. That is because you may usually be eligible to file the Form I-485 together with your Form I-130, which means that you can file both of these applications at the same time and they will be processed together. This is called a concurrent filing, and USCIS typically processes concurrent filing within 12 to 18 months.

In addition to submitting the Form I-130 and Form I-485, you can also submit the following paperwork. You can file the Form I-765, which is the application for a work authorization, otherwise known as the Employment Authorization Document. You can also file the Form I-131, which is the Application for Advance Parole or future permission to travel abroad and return to the U.S.

The average processing time for the I-131 is 6 to 12 months, and the average processing time for the Form I-765 is 3 to 6 months. You can also file your concurrent filing with the Form I-693, which is the medical examination. You would need to make an appointment with a USCIS civil surgeon, and they would give you an enclosed and sealed medical exam, which you could submit together with your Form I-130 and Form I-485.

You definitely need to file the Form I-864, which is the affidavit of support, if you are filing a concurrent I-485 with your I-130. This application will show that your sponsor can financially support you and prevent you from becoming a public charge. You will also need to file the Form I-130A, which is a supplement for biographical information about the beneficiary, aka you. And you definitely want to make sure that you include all supporting evidence of a bona fide marriage and qualifying relationship.

About two to three months after filing your I-130 and I-485, you will get a biometrics appointment notice, which will tell you to show up to a certain location of a USCIS application support center to get your fingerprints and picture taken. This appointment is typically going to be scheduled at either the USCIS field office closest to you or at the application support center that is closest to you. And you can go to this appointment by yourself. There is no need to take your sponsoring spouse.

The next thing you can expect in person for a USCIS appointment after the biometrics is done is your actual green card interview. Until recently, almost every single applicant filing for a marriage-based green card had to attend an in-person appointment with USCIS. However, due to the backlog and in an effort to increase processing times and reduce the workload across USCIS offices, many USCIS offices have been deciding to waive the green card interview for the majority of applicants.

But if you do end up getting scheduled for a green card interview, typically your interview will happen about one month after you receive the appointment letter. When you receive your appointment letter, you will get a notice in the mail that will contain the time, the date, and the location of your interview along with a list of any supporting documentation that you should bring with you.

Assuming that you do a good job in passing the interview and answering all of the questions of the USCIS officer and assuming that there are no other issues in your case that would prevent a decision, typically the decision will be issued to either approve or deny your I-485 and I-130 30 to 120 days after your interview. Once you get your decision, your green card will be mailed to you within two to three weeks.

So altogether, the total amount of time that it could possibly take for you to get your green card when you are inside the U.S. and filing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen and filing your I-130 together with your I-485 will take anywhere from 10 to 23 months, especially it will depend on where in the U.S. you live, whether this field office that is assigned to you is super busy, and whether they decide to call you in for an interview.

If you're not called in for an interview, you can expect your processing time to be reduced by at least six months.

Please note that if you have been married for less than two years, then at the time that you are approved for your green card, you will receive a two-year conditional residency card, and you will then need to file the form I-751 90 days before this card expires in order to convert your two-year residency card so that you can get a 10-year permanent resident card.

Married To LPR Inside U.S.

Now what if you are living inside the U.S. and you are married to a green card holder instead? Unfortunately, there could be many obstacles to you getting your green card while staying in the U.S., and it tends to typically take twice as long, if not more.

First, if you are married to a green card holder, then that makes you a preference category relative, and you must wait until your category is current according to the visa bulletin before your form I-130 will be processed by USCIS, and you cannot file a concurrent I-485 application with your I-130 if your category is not current according to the visa bulletin.

The reason for this is that the U.S. government puts a limit to how many green cards spouses of green card holders can be approved for in a given calendar year. Since the number of visas the U.S. government may give out to spouses of green card holders is less than the number of spouses actually applying for a green card, a backlog may be created. For a couple of years, the category for spouses of green card holders was current and there were enough visas available for them. However, recently a backlog has been announced and now there is a wait time.

The visa bulletin will show exactly when the priority is current for spouses of green card holders who are in the F2A category, and that is when the spouse can file the green card application. For example, according to this month's visa bulletin, anyone in the F2A category who submitted their application for the I-130 on or before September 1, 2023 would be considered current and can now file the Form I-485. But if your I-130 was filed after this date, then you would still need to wait.

But the problem that this creates for so many spouses of green card holders is the following. In order to file a Form I-485, if you are not an immediate relative, meaning if you are not the spouse of a U.S. citizen, you have to show that you are in current lawful status, meaning that your visa status has not expired.

Number two, you also have to show that you don't have any unlawful presence. Now because of the backlog situation that has been created because of the visa bulletin and the long time that a spouse may now need to wait to file the green card application, it may actually create situations where the spouse of a green card holder is not able and not eligible to file the Form I-485 because of these two reasons.

Therefore, if you are the spouse of a green card holder, you must make sure that you maintain current lawful status and not accrue any unlawful presence lest you be prevented from filing your I-485 in the future. But if that does happen to you, there are two solutions usually to this situation.

Number one, you may need to do a waiver for unlawful presence and exit the United States to do processing at the consulate abroad.

Or number two, you may need to wait for your spouse to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen instead, which would remove those two problems.

Therefore, the Form I-485 for the spouse of a green card holder can take very long to process. However, nobody knows how long USCIS is going to take to work through their backlog and in the future, the wait time for a visa according to the visa bulletin may even increase in time. So keep checking the visa bulletin to make sure you see how it is progressing every single month to see if it is current or to see if there is any other additional information you need to know.

Assuming that the visa bulletin is current in the F2 category, then you would follow the same process as mentioned earlier about filing the Form I-485, go to your biometrics appointment, and go to your green card interview or possibly have it waived. Your interview here inside the U.S. will also be held at a local field office and once you have your decision approving your I-130 and I-485, you'll typically get your green card in the mail within one to two weeks after the interview date.

Altogether, current estimates put the processing time for most I-130s and I-485s for the spouse of a green card holder anywhere from 13 months to as long as 25 months. Coming up, I'm going to share with you my timeline for when you are living outside the United States, so stay tuned.

But first, I want to let you know that I am accepting new clients. My name is Moumita Rahman and I have been practicing immigration law for the past 14 years.

If you would like my help on your immigration case, you can call us at 212-248-7907. I'm based in New York but I have clients all over the U.S.

Live Outside The U.S.

Okay, so what if you are married to a U.S. citizen or to a green card holder and you live outside the United States?

Your case will have to go through what we typically call consular processing because you actually need to do some additional processing with a U.S. consulate in your country to ask them to grant you an immigrant visa to come live in the United States. Your case would start out the same way by filing an I-130 and a case receipt number would be issued and USCIS needs to process this I-130 first.

Once the I-130 is approved, then USCIS would actually transfer your case to the National Visa Center where a new case number will be created for you so that you can process outside the U.S. for your consular interview abroad. We call the National Visa Center NVC for short.

Typically, after your I-130 is approved, it will take anywhere from one to three months for USCIS to transfer your I-130 to NVC and NVC will typically create a new case number for you within 30 days after your case is received by them. But here is where the timeline will split.

If your I-130 is based upon a marriage to a U.S. citizen, NVC will begin processing your case right away. However, if your I-130 is based upon marriage to a green card holder, then they will not begin processing your case until the visa bulletin is current in your category. And again, the wait time according to the visa bulletin right now can go up to 25 months and even possibly more.

However, once your case can proceed with the NVC, you will receive an email giving you a invoice number which you must pay by going to You must pay the invoice numbers and you must fill out the form DS-260 Application for an Immigrant Visa online. And you must also upload the qualifying documents.

Once you have finished uploading all the required documents, NVC can take typically up to 30 days to review your documents if it is an electronically processed case or can take up to four months to review your documents if you have had to supply all of your documents by mail. Once they have finished reviewing your documents, they will either request further paperwork or deem you documentarily qualified and then they will forward your case to the U.S. consulate in your country where you will await a time slot for your appointment for an interview.

This is again where the timeline can diverge a little bit. If you are processing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen, then typically you may only have to wait one to three months for an appointment at the consulate. However, if you are processing as the spouse of a green card holder, you may be given a lower priority and you may have to wait longer than that.

But also other factors such as the busyness of the consulate and the availability of consular officers to conduct appointments can also impact how quickly interviews are being scheduled abroad.

But during this time, once you have been notified about your appointment at the U.S. consulate, you will have to get your medical exam by a qualified civil surgeon, you will have to confirm your passport delivery information, and you will need to attend a fingerprinting appointment. Because your interview is abroad, your spouse would not need to attend this interview at the consulate, so you would go by yourself.

The consulate will typically let you know that day of the interview whether they are refusing your visa or whether it is approved and then you would get your passport back within one to two weeks with your immigrant visa foil stamped inside. You must use this immigrant visa to enter the U.S. within 180 days before it expires. And once you have entered the U.S. with this visa, you are automatically considered to be a legal resident of the United States. You will get your green card in the mail within six months after entry.

So all together, the estimated timeline for spouses living abroad can take anywhere from 13 to 16 months and for spouses of green card holders can take two and a half to three years. Now, if you want to increase the likelihood that your green card interview is going to be waived, you need to make sure you submit your application with as much good bonafide marriage evidence as possible. That's why I have created the ultimate guide to proving that your marriage is real.

In it, I explain exactly what sort of evidence you should include and what types of evidence USCIS loves to see.

I'll include a link to this video here.

So click to watch next and I'll see you there.

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