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How long does the immigration process take?

When you and your family discussed the best way to improve the condition of your life, the conversation came around to immigration to the United States. Perhaps you already have family in Texas who have been urging you to join them, and your circumstances now may be perfect for making the big move.

However, it's not as simple as packing a suitcase and buying a plane ticket. You understand the challenges ahead of you and the many steps you must take to gain legal entry to the country. If time is of the essence for your family, you may have many questions about the process and the amount of time you can expect to wait before gaining permission to immigrate.

What are your circumstances?

If you are planning to make a permanent move to the United States, you will have to apply for a green card. There are a variety of categories for green card eligibility, and each has its own requirements and process for approval. Since immigration authorities grant a limited number of green cards each year, some categories have an extended waiting period, for example:

  • Immediate family members of U.S. citizens – such as a spouse, a child under age 21 or a parent of a citizen over age 21 – may wait a year or more, including about eight months for a review of your petition, but there is no limit on the number of people who may enter under this category.
  • Children over age 21 whose parents are U.S. citizens may wait up to six years for a green card.
  • Children or spouses of those who hold green cards may wait between five and 10 years.
  • Married children of U.S. citizens typically have an eight-year wait for a green card.
  • Siblings of U.S. citizens have waiting periods based on the country from which they emigrate.
  • Researchers, skilled professionals, those with exceptional talent or education, and multinational executives have varying wait times because of the limited number of green cards available for their categories.
  • Other employees, such as religious workers and unskilled workers may wait five years or more before gaining legal entrance.

Once you complete and submit your paperwork, and immigration authorities review it, there are more steps to take, such as scheduling an interview. However, the paperwork approval process is generally the longest step. This is why it is important that you submit your documents completely, accurately and on time. Any omissions or mistakes will delay the process. In fact, this step is important enough that many hoping to obtain a green card seek the assistance of an attorney to ensure the paperwork is submitted correctly.

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