The first steps on the pathway to obtaining a family-based permanent residence or green card in the United States is Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The Form I-130 is used by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to establish a qualifying relationship with the beneficiary.

Although the steps that are necessary to be undertaken are fairly consistent, the processing time of I-130 depends on other circumstances. The processing time will mostly vary significantly based on the type of relationship (between petitioner and beneficiary), USCIS caseload, and your ability to file an accurately prepared I-130 petition properly. The following outline describes the necessary steps of the I-130 timeline for most people.

The marriage visa process is more straightforward and less costly, comparing to the fiance K-1 visa. The State Department will assess the marriage-based immigrant case, and after it approves it, it will issue a visa. Visa issued this way will also serve as a temporary green card. With this visa, you will be able to travel to the United States, and after you get granted the green card, the State Department will mail it to you. If you have been married for less than two years after entry to the United States, you will first be issued a conditional green card. Before receiving a ten-year green card, you will have to file to remove conditions.

When it comes to processing times for Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, it also can be slow. As of mid-2020, it took from seven to 22 months on average for USCIS to process this form. Upon approval of the I-130 petition, how long it takes before you can come to the United States will depend on whether you are married to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) or green cardholder.

If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you will qualify as an immediate relative. This means that your case would take the length of time it takes the government to process it. Usually, the time you have to wait for in this case takes about two months before transferring the case to the National Visa Center (NVC). You will then have to wait for several more months before the U.S. embassy is ready to schedule your interview. As you can see, the total average processing time can be up to 24 months.

On the other side, if you are married to a lawful permanent resident, then your priority date is not immediate. Instead, you will be subject to the quota system.

If your lawful permanent resident spouse has lived with you in a foreign country for more than six months, you should consider consulting an attorney to ensure that the government has not deemed his or her green card “abandoned.”

Although a marriage CR-1 visa will not take less than 12 months, it has specific advantages. One of these is that immigrants arrive in the United States with permanent residency once they cross the border. Upon arrival, they can immediately work, get social security number, driver’s license, and travel outside the United States. The green card should arrive in the mail within a couple of weeks of arrival in the United States, but the stamp in the passport at the border is evidence of green card status (I_551 stamp).

To follow up with the current processing time, you can visit the USCIS official website and see trends in all five field offices or service centers: Nebraska, California, Potomac, Texas, and Vermont.

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