How Long Will It Take To Immigrate To The United States?

The time it takes to immigrate to the United States varies widely depending on the visa sought and the foreign national’s individual circumstances. There are backlogs for certain visas, annual maximums on the number of certain visas and delays caused by the sheer volume of applications. For the most common employment based immigration visa (the EB-3), there is currently at least a six month backlog for Labor Certification (PERM). For those EB-3 cases where labor certification has already been approved, the backlog for obtaining a green card (permanent residency) is five years. While the backlog for EB-3 visas might appear daunting, with labor certification permanent residency is practically assured (as long as the employment that was certified continues until the case is concluded). The date labor certification is approved becomes the priority date within the backlogged system. There are also quotas set by the U.S. Government providing limitations on the number visas available in a particular category for foreign nationals of certain countries (per country limits). For instance, only a certain percentage of the available EB-3 visas in any one year may go to Indian nationals. Currently, the backlog for EB-3 Indian nationals seeking green cards is even longer than five years. Immigration visas for immediate family members are generally quicker. For other family members subject to the preferences set forth above, backlogs continue to exist.

Once permanent residency is obtained, a foreign national becomes eligible for naturalization (becoming a United States citizen). Regardless of the type of visa applied for, the process for immigrating to the United States is often arduous. Prospective immigrants should be prepared for unexpected delays even when they are being represented by a very good attorney.