One of the many benefits of naturalization is the ability to petition for your parents to come to the United States as legal permanent residents by obtaining a green card (the informal term for a lawful permanent residency card). However, like most immigration-related proceedings, there may be a considerable waiting period for the parents of a U.S. Citizen to be issued a green card. Get answers to common questions about family-based green card processing times and see how an attorney may be able to help streamline the process.
What Type of Family-Based Green Card Would My Parents Need?
Family-based immigration petitions are divided into two main categories – immediate relatives and family preference. The foreign-born parents of a naturalized U.S. Citizen are considered to be part of the immediate relatives category. This is beneficial because visas and green cards for immediate relatives are typically readily available, and there is no cap on how many green cards can be issued for this category.
On the other hand, if you are petitioning for other family members, such as siblings or married children over 21 years of age, they are usually not considered immediate relatives and thus belong to the family preference category, which means longer processing and wait times and a yearly cap on how many visas may be issued per country.
What Are the Steps to Receive a Family-Based Green Card?
Let’s suppose you are a U.S. Citizen who wishes to have your parents become lawful permanent residents. In this case, the steps you and your parents may need to take vary depending on whether your parents are already present in the United States or are still living abroad.
For parents who have been lawfully admitted into the country with a nonimmigrant status (such as a tourist visa), you may resort to filing for an adjustment of status, which allows your parents to remain in the United States legally while awaiting a decision on their case. If your parents are still waiting abroad, they may first have to undergo consular processing and obtain an immigrant visa in order to travel to the United States and be admitted as lawful permanent residents. If your parents are already in the country but have an unlawful or undocumented status, it is best not to file any applications with the government before discussing their case with a skilled immigration attorney, as there may be additional steps that should be taken before filing for a green card.
How Long Will My Parents Need to Wait Before Being Issued a Green Card?
The exact processing times for a family-based green card application vary drastically depending on the location of the USCIS office handling your case, the current volume of cases being processed, and whether you have submitted all required documents correctly or have received an RFE (Request for Evidence) letter from the USCIS.
If your parents are already in the United States and all forms and documents have been properly submitted and accepted by the USCIS, some applicants may receive their green card in as little as 90 days, while others may take much longer. According to the USCIS website, as of 2023, the average processing time for family-based adjustment applications is 12.5 months. The waiting period can be longer if your parents are currently in their country of origin and need consular processing (such as scheduling an interview at the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate and obtaining an immigrant visa).
The USCIS website has a tool that allows applicants and petitioners to check the status of their cases online. All you need is to enter the receipt number provided to you (usually by mail) when the USCIS receives your application. If you believe your case is taking longer than it should, you may send an inquiry to the USCIS if your application has been pending for longer than the processing times currently posted on their website.
Can an Immigration Attorney Help Speed up the Process?
Perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of any immigration process is not being able to escape the long wait times before you can get a final decision on your case. Applicants and petitioners should be prepared to wait several months and – in some cases – a year or more to receive a decision on their case. That is when many people may wonder whether there may be a way to speed up the process and shorten their wait time.
One of the aspects that may slow down your case and cause delays is incomplete or incorrectly filled forms or insufficient documentation. Making sure you are filling out each form correctly and thoroughly, as well as ensuring you have all necessary forms and all required supporting documentation before submitting your application to the USCIS. As mentioned above, when something is missing or incorrect, your case may be delayed while the USCIS sends you an RFE letter and waits for you to submit further evidence.
While working with an immigration attorney does not mean you will get faster processing times or any time of expedited treatment by the USCIS (unless your case qualifies for expedited processing, you will maximize your chances of submitting an application that is error-free and thus will likely avoid unnecessary delays and preventable mistakes. In that sense, investing in the legal guidance of an attorney who focuses on helping clients get citizenship may be a wise move to help your case progress without delays.