PROCESS AND PRIORITY DATES
In order to obtain permanent residence based on a relationship with a US Citizen or Permanent Resident Family member, in most cases, there are two steps. The following is an outline of the process. For more detailed information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
You may qualify to apply for a US Permanent Residence through your parents, adult children, spouse, or siblings. Whether you can apply immediately or will have to wait depends upon the family relationship you share with the beneficiary. Immediate relatives of US citizens include parents, spouses, and unmarried children under 21. Immediate relatives may file residency petitions without delay.
Other relatives, apart from "immediate relatives", must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the following categories:
First Preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Adult means 21 years of age or older.
Second Preference: Spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents, their unmarried children (under age twenty-one), and the unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents.
Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens.
Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.
Wait times will vary according to the Visa Bulletin, which can be found online at:
Step 1, Form I-130, Immigrant Petition for Alien Relative:
The first step towards U.S. Lawful Permanent Residence based on your relationship with a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Residence is by filing a Form I-130, Immigration Petition for Alien Relative and all required supporting documents with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (“USCIS”).
Normal processing time frames vary between 5 month to several years depending on your preference category. Immediate Relatives are processed as quickly as 5 months. For monthly updates on USCIS processing time frames, please see the following link:
Step 2, Form I-485, Application for Permanent Residence OR Consular Processing of an Immigrant Visa at the US Consulate Abroad:
If the applicant is inside the United States, we may advise the client to file Form I-485, Application for Permanent Residence with USCIS. If the applicant is located outside the United States and does not have U.S. work authorization, such as an H, L or TN status, then s/he may be required to finalize the permanent residence process from abroad and apply for an immigrant visa at their local U.S. Consulate.
Under current law, we cannot file Form I-485 or begin Consular Processing of an Immigrant Visa until the U.S. Department of State permits us to do so. The Department of State issues a document called the "Visa Bulletin" on a monthly basis. This bulletin informs us who may file Form I-485 or begin Consular Processing. When there is a high demand for immigrant visa numbers, we experience what is called a "retrogression" in the numbers. This basically means that an invisible line is formed and only those with a labor certification filed before a certain date (the priority date) can file Form I-485 or begin Consular Processing.
The priority date is set as the date your I-130 application is filed with USCIS. Priority dates are updated by the Department of State every thirty days and can move several months ahead or several months backwards each time they are updated. Because we do not know when your priority date will be current (no one knows), it is hard to estimate when your green card will be approved. Depending on your visa preference category, we can provide an estimate for the number of years you can expect your case to remain pending.
Via Form I-485, Application for Permanent Residence:
Once your priority date is current, we assist by preparing and filing the many forms for the I-485 on your behalf. Approximately 90 days after filing, the individual will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card), which will permit him/her to work in the U.S. while the I-485 is pending. When eligible, approximately 90-120 days after filing, the employee will receive Advance Parole Travel Authorization from USCIS. This permits the employee to travel internationally while the I-485 is pending. Always contact our office for advice prior to international travel. In some circumstances, traveling abroad while your application is pending can cause serious complications that you may not be able to rectify.
Once filed, you can check USCIS processing timeframes online. Processing time frames vary from month to month and you can check online each month to see what USCIS is processing. Go to:
Scroll down to I-485, Family Based Adjustment Applications.
Check back in at this web site each month to see the updated report. You will see that sometimes the dates move forward significantly and sometimes they do not change and remain static.
We base our processing timeframes on educated guesses derived from the monthly status reports issued on the link above and also based on the approvals we see coming into our office. Sometimes USCIS might say they are taking 6 months to process a case but we see approvals for that same type of case coming in sooner or taking longer.
NOTE: Whenever we provide a "processing time frame" it is an educated guess. No one can promise exactly when USCIS will reach a decision on a case.
For approval of your Family Based Permanent Residence, we need to see three things happen:
- Approval of Form I-130, Immigrant Petition for Alien Relative;
- Completion of the employee’s background check. This is an internal government process and the only role you play in this is having your fingerprints and photos taken (biometrics). Biometrics are valid for only 15 months. If it takes USCIS longer than 15 months to process your I-485, USCIS will reschedule you for fingerprinting / biometrics.
- Once USCIS has completed 1&2 and are ready to approve the case, the individual’s priority date must also be current. You can check the visa bulletin at the following link each month to confirm. Your priority date is the date your Form I-130 was filed. Contact us if you are not sure of your priority date and category OR if you are not sure how to read the visa bulletin.
You may or may not be required to attend an in person interview. We are available to assist in preparation for the interview and attendance, at client request. Once approved, USCIS will mail a Permanent Resident card to the individual’s home address inside the United States.
Via an Immigrant Visa from a U.S. Consulate Abroad:
Once Form I-130 is approved and the priority date is current (see above), the employee will be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad. We work with National Visa Center in Portsmouth, NH to provide the U.S. Consulate with all the information needed in order to schedule the interview in the employee’s home country. It takes approximately 4-6 months for the National Visa Center to complete its processing before an interview will be scheduled. Once issued, the visa permits the employee to enter the U.S. as a Permanent Resident and the Permanent Resident Card is mailed to the U.S. home address.