Waiting for U.S. lawful permanent residence (a "green card") can be a long and trying process. For one thing, the large number of people who wish to immigrate to the United States and limits on the numbers of green cards or visas that can be given out annually in certain categories causes a mismatch in supply and demand, resulting in long waits. But even without this problem, U.S. immigration authorities are chronically backlogged with applications.
Is there any way to speed up the process so that your green card gets approved faster? For the most part, speeding up the process is impossible. However, below we will give you some tips for avoiding unusual or disastrous sorts of delays.
Warning: The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in extra-long delays in every part of every immigration process, as government offices catch up from long closures and follow ongoing safety and health guidelines.
It's important to understand what is considered "normal" in the process of applying for a green card or visa. No matter what, it will probably take longer than you would like. Do your research at the beginning, so that you will not be surprised by issues like the following:
Once you understand the sources of delays, you will be better able to track whether your application seems to have fallen behind the rest. At that point, you would want to contact whoever is handling your application and find out what's going wrong.
If USCIS is handling your application, call its Contact Center. Unfortunately, you'll have to get past an automated phone system, and the person who eventually calls you back (hopefully) will not be the one who is handling your file. You might get only secondhand information, based on whatever is shown in the USCIS computer system. In some cases, this contact center will set up a personal appointment for you to visit a local USCIS office for closer personal attention.
In rare cases, when you're facing a true emergency, you might be able to ask the immigration authorities to speed up consideration of your case. For example, if you're trying to get a K-1 fiancé visa for an immigrant who is hoping to get married before receiving a much-needed kidney transplant, that might be grounds for a request for expedited processing. You would want to submit a letter to whoever is handling your case, along with documentation proving the emergency.
In normal circumstances, however, bugging the immigration authorities to put your application ahead of the rest will get you nowhere.
By far the best thing that you can do to make sure that your green card application is processed as quickly as possible is to make sure that all of your paperwork is in order prior to filing. If you leave something out of an application, the whole thing can be sent back to you, or you might receive a letter requesting follow-up documents. Such issues invariably add weeks or months to the process.
Carefully read and follow any instructions from USCIS or other immigration authorities regarding your paperwork. Check many times over to be sure that you have filled in all of the requested information on your forms and included the appropriate documents, fee, and photos. If uncomfortable in English, have a friend look over your application materials or hire an attorney.
An experienced immigration attorney can help you to make sure your application is prepared appropriately and then track it through the system. If you didn't hire an attorney at the beginning of the process, you might want to find one after encountering unusual delays.