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Why Does a Green Card Take So Long?

It’s one of the questions we get asked most often at American Dream® Law Office. Everyone wants to know why it takes so long to get a green card.

There can be many factors that cause the process to take so long, but let’s review the most common reasons you may have a long wait to get your green card.

The Status of the Person Applying Has a Big Impact

The status of the person applying for a green card matters tremendously because applications are prioritized according to status. If you are classified as the “immediate relative” of a U.S. citizen, you don’t have to worry about waiting for a visa number because it will always be available for you. Immediate relatives have the highest priority. Immigration officials consider you to be an immediate relative if you are married to a U.S. citizen or are the parent of a citizen or unmarried child of a citizen (age restrictions apply).

If you’re not an immediate relative but you still have a relationship that qualifies you for a visa, you fit into one of five family preference categories. Applicants for business visas are also in categories ranked by preference. You have to wait for a visa number to become available, and it’s going to be a longer wait if you’re in a lower preference category.

Your Country of Origin Makes a Difference

Back in 1952, Congress established limits on the number of immigrants that would be allowed each year in the Immigration and Naturalization Act. To encourage diversity, limits were set for each country. Only a certain number of visas would be granted each year for various countries. So if you come from a country with a high rate of immigration to the U.S., you have to wait much longer for a visa than if you’re from a country where fewer people apply. For instance, if you’re in a business preference category and coming from India, the wait time is about 15 years.

Some members of Congress are now trying to pass legislation called the EAGLE Act that will remove the limits on visa numbers for each country. The name stands for Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment. Under the Act, available visas would be distributed regardless of your country of origin. There is bipartisan support for the Eagle Act, so hopefully it will be passed in this session. For now, however, applicants from certain countries face a very long wait.

Get Help Getting a Green Card

If you have a family or business petition that’s pending or you’re thinking about applying for a visa, please give us a call. The team at American Dream® Law Office can schedule a strategy session to help you find your best path toward your goals.

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