How Long Does It Take USCIS to Issue a Green Card?

How long does it take to process an application for permanent residence in the United States, or a “green card?” You might be surprised by how difficult it is to find a reliable answer to this common question. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—the agency that adjudicates applications for permanent residence and other immigration benefits—provides a range as a way to estimate the time needed to process an immigration application.

The agency introduced a pilot program in March that changed how USCIS estimates these time ranges for four of its most popular types of application. The change follows longstanding criticism about inaccurate processing times from federal oversight offices, elected officials, and stakeholders. Applicants and immigration practitioners have reported that USCIS’ posted processing times do not reflect the actual time it takes a case to reach completion.

Previously, USCIS published processing times for all types of applications and petitions as a single figure in months, a specific date, and even in relation to a goal processing time.

The agency now uses an automated methodology in an attempt to more accurately estimate how long it will take to process certain common immigration benefit filings. According to USCIS, an application for permanent residence (Form I-485) will take anywhere from 7 months to 33 months to process. The time range fluctuates depending on the office location, basis for the filing, and other factors.

The pilot program only applies to the following four immigration forms:

N-400, Application for Naturalization
I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card
I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence

Although the calculation method being piloted may improve accuracy in some ways, concerns remain. The pilot program includes only four of the many fee-based immigration forms USCIS adjudicates. Additionally, the ranges are still estimates, have broad variation, and do not reflect the complexity of many cases.

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