How to Speed Up the Green Card Application Process

Learn how to monitor your application and keep it moving through the system.

Waiting for a green card can be a long and trying procedure. Because of 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, the immigration authorities are usually heavily backlogged with applications. At any given time, they may have hundreds of thousands of people's cases to consider.

Is there any way that you can you 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 sorts of delays.

Start by Understanding the Usual Timeline for Your Green Card or Visa

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 understand the following:

  • The usual bureaucratic backlog in your application category. This can often be checked online. For example, if you’re applying to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), try using the “USCIS Processing Time Information” page of its website to get an indication of the current, average wait times for particular applications. Or if you already have a receipt for an application, go to the “My Case Status” page. If you’re applying to a U.S. consulate in your home country, check the “Visa Wait Times - for Interview Appointments and Processing” page of the State Department website.
  • Whether annual limits slow down visa availability in your category. If, for example, you are applying for a family-based visa and are not the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, you are in what’s called a “preference category,” where annual limits apply, and will likely wait years on a waiting list for a visa to become available. Similarly, annual limits on employment-based green cards result in long waits in certain categories. Your place on the waiting list depends on your “priority date,” which is based on the date that either your family-based visa petition or your labor certification was first filed. To check on what priority dates are currently becoming eligible for visas, see the State Department ‘s latest “Visa Bulletin.”

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, the best way to do this is often to make in INFOPASS appointment using the USCIS website and then talk to someone in person. Unfortunately, that will not be the person who is handling your file, so you may get secondhand information based on whatever is shown in the USCIS computer system.

When to Ask for Expedited Processing

In rare cases, when you’re facing a true emergency, you may be able to ask the immigration authorities to speed up consideration of your case. For example, if you’re trying to get a 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.

Carefully Preparing Your Green Card or Visa Application

By far the best thing that you can do to make sure that your green card application is processed as fast 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 may be sent back to you, or you may 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.

Getting Help

An experienced immigration attorney can help you to make sure your application is prepared appropriately and track it through the system. If you didn't hire an attorney at the beginning of the process, you may want to find one after encountering unusual delays.

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