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How long will it take to get my green card?

By Atty. James G. Beirne

If you are interested in permanently living and working in the United States, you have probably heard that you will need a green card. However, you may not be clear on what a green card is, and not know how to go about obtaining one.

A green card is a piece of identification that is issued by the United States government, which will allow you to legally reside in the U.S. By having this green card, you are allowed to live and work in the U.S., as well as obtain all benefits afforded to legal immigrants. This all-important documentation can be applied for after you have resided in the U.S. for a period of five years. If your residency in the U.S. was because of political asylum, the requirement is four years, and if you are married to a U.S. citizen, the residency requirement is three years.

A common question regarding green cards is “how long does it take?” The answer is it depends a great deal on your personal circumstances are and what type of green card you are applying for. From the onset of the process, which would be filing your petition, to receiving your green card can take from several months to several years. In order to increase your odds for obtaining a green card quickly, you should consider consulting with an experienced immigration attorney. Often the process will entail submitting required documentation and medical tests for instance. Any delay in submitted documentation will translate into a delay in your obtaining a green card.

Green Card Based on Employment

Some individuals seeking permanent residence in the U.S. may be able to qualify for an employment-based green card. It is estimated that up to 140,000 green cards are issued in the employment category alone. In order to qualify, you must be sponsored through your employer, known as the “labor certification” process. The employer must conduct a recruitment of prospective of employees, and file an application with the Department of Labor. Laborers are not necessarily immediately eligible to apply for a green card, because applications are accepted on a preference system. The priority will go to individuals who are filling jobs that require a college degree and experience, for instance.

There are three basic steps in this process. The first step, the Labor Certification Application usually takes up to 6 months; the immigration petition can take up to 3 months. The final step, the adjustment of status will take up to a year. These periods vary greatly depending on your individual circumstances and from what geographic region you are applying.

Family Sponsored Green Card

A family sponsored green card can be applied for when you have a blood relative who is already a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. There are two options here. Relatives who are currently outside the U.S. may be eligible for consular processing through the U.S. embassy in their country. With a family sponsored green card, you may be able to obtain a green card through a family member in a preference category, or if your family member is a U.S. citizen and files Form I-130. The time required to process a family sponsored green card will vary depending on the relationship between family members.

Prior to issuing a green card, checks may be performed looking into the applicant’s moral character and affiliations. Depending on how extensive these checks are and what they find, it could delay the processing of your green card.

DV Lottery

One of the quickest ways to obtain a green card is to enter the diversity lottery.

Approximately 50,000 green cards are distributed through this process annually. There are certain qualifications that must be met however, such as having a high school diploma, and at least two years of work experience. You, your spouse, or parents must come from an eligible country to participate as well. If you meet these qualifications, you will be able to submit an application, and wait to hear if you are one of the lucky ones. If you are selected, you can receive your green card in as quick as 6 months.

Obtaining a green card can be a complex process. In order to determine which method is the best and most expeditious way to obtain a green card, it is important to speak with an experienced immigration lawyer from James G. Beirne. Our team of immigration lawyers has helped thousands successfully obtain the immigration documents they needed to successfully live and work in the U.S. We provide immigration services including family, fiancé and employment petitions, student and investor visas, visa extensions, naturalization and much more. Come in to speak with an immigration lawyer from our team. We will provide you with sound legal advice as well as a free consultation. Contact us today. We have three locations to serve you, Glendale (818) 552-4500, Cerritos (562) 865-4480 and West Covina (626) 262-4446. With your first appointment, you will receive legal guidance and a free consultation, so call today.


An active member of the State Bar of California and the State Bar of Nevada, James G. Beirne is also a member of the highly respected American Immigration Lawyers Association and Los Angeles County Bar Association Immigration Section. He is admitted to practice before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, all federal district courts in California and Nevada, California state courts, and Nevada state courts. Mr. Beirne has represented clients in numerous immigration cases. His offices are located at 520 E. Wilson Ave., Suite 110, Glendale, CA 91206, and 17215 Studebaker Rd., Suite 380, Cerritos, CA 90703, with telephone numbers (818) 552-4500; (562) 865-4480; and (866) 903-4522. He also has offices at 2640 E. Garvey Ave., Suite 104, West Covina 91791, with tel. no. (626) 262-4446. His newest office is at Valencia Executive Plaza, Suite 200-E, 27201 Tourney Road, Valencia, CA 91355, tel. no. (661) 200-0644.

(Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Results may vary depending on the facts of a particular case. We make no prediction, warranty or guarantee about the results of any case, nor do we assume any legal liability for the completeness of any information and its impact on the results of any case. Each case is different and results depend on the facts of each case. Consult with and retain counsel of your own choice if you need legal advice.)

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