Immigrants who are approved for a green card before traveling to the United States should receive their green card in the mail within 30 – 90 days of entering the country. USCIS has up to 120 days to mail the green card, but it’s pretty rare to see a case that takes longer than 90 days.
The only caveat is for immigrants who have not paid all applicable filing fees and biometric services fees, as USCIS will not issue a green card until all fees are settled. In fact, if you pay the filing fees after entering the United States, the 120-day clock to mail your green card begins the day you paid the fees, not the day you entered the country.
Immigrants who are approved for a green card through adjustment of status while in the United States are subject to a different timeline. The USCIS officer who performs your green card interview should tell you whether your application is approved or denied at the conclusion of the interview, but this rarely happens.
Instead, your case may need approval from a supervisor (2 – 3 weeks), the adjudicator may request more information with an RFE (1 – 6 months), or it could simply be delayed a few weeks due to a processing backlog. Either way, your case may not be approved just because you passed your green card interview.
As soon as your green card application is approved, you should receive a Notice of Decision in the mail. Based on the date of approval listed in this notice, you should then receive your green card welcome packet in the mail within 30 days. After that, you can expect to receive your green card no more than 30 days after receiving the welcome packet. Altogether, that means you should receive your green card in the mail no more than 60 days after your case is approved.
What to Do if You Move Before Receiving Your Green Card
When a green card applicant moves at any point during the review process, it’s the applicant’s responsibility to inform USCIS of the change of address. Updating your address in the USCIS system shouldn’t have any effect on processing time but failing to update USCIS of a move can cause major problems. As soon as you move, call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 to update your address.
Keep in mind that if USCIS sends your green card to the wrong address because you did not provide them with an updated address, you will have to request a new card and pay a $455 filing fee. Not only is this expensive, it will take 4.5 months to 11.5 months to process the replacement request and send a new green card.
What to Do If Your Green Card is Late
If you have not received your green card in a timely manner (90 – 120 days for immigrants who recently entered the United States, or 60 days for immigrants applying for adjustment of status), the first step is to call the USCIS Contact Center. If the Contact Center is unable to assist you, your second option is to contact the USCIS officer who completed your green card interview. The final option is to schedule an INFOPASS appointment with an immigration officer at the local USCIS office.
A late green card can be a serious red flag that something is wrong with your application. If you haven’t already hired an immigration attorney to represent you, this may be a good time to at least consult with an attorney. Even if you don’t need to retain the attorney’s services, they may be able to offer advice on how to fix what’s holding back your green card.
How to Order a Replacement Green Card
Whether you need a replacement green card because yours never arrived in the mail or it arrived but contains errors, you can request a replacement card with Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. This form can also be used to replace lost, stolen, destroyed, and mutilated green cards.
If you need a replacement card because you never received your green card in the mail, you’ll need to attach a copy of Form I-797, Notice of Action, for the USCIS form that granted approval for your green card.
You’ll also need to include a copy of a government-issued ID that has your name, birthdate, signature, and photograph. As long as USCIS mailed the card 30+ days ago, it was returned undeliverable, and you have not moved from the provided address, there is no charge for this service. Unfortunately, if you moved and didn’t update your address with USCIS, you’ll have to pay the $455 filing fee.
If you have received your green card but there are errors on the card (e.g. your name is misspelled, or your birthdate is wrong), you’ll need to attach evidence to prove that the information is incorrect, such as a birth certificate or government-issued ID. You’ll also need to mail back the green card so USCIS can verify the error. If the error is due to your mistake (e.g. a typo on your application), you’ll unfortunately have to pay the $455 filing fee. If the mistake is on USCIS’s part and you can prove it (just include a copy of your application that shows you entered the info correctly), the filing fee will be waived.
In any case, it takes USCIS an average of 7 months to process Form I-90 and issue a replacement green card. During this time, your only proof of permanent resident status will be the I-551 stamp in your passport.
Total Processing Time For a Green Card
Green card processing times vary from case to case depending on the eligibility category and a number of other factors. Based on historical data from USCIS, the average processing time for a green card from start to finish is about 11 months for family-based and employment-based applications. Refugee and asylum cases are typically a little quicker, at 6.9 and 8.9 months respectively.
However, those numbers correspond to how long it takes USCIS to process the green card application (Form I-485), not necessarily how long it takes to get your green card in the mail. Depending on the eligibility category, the applicant may need to wait several months or several years for an immigrant visa to become available, as USCIS cannot issue a green card until there is a visa number attached to it.
Call our Immigration team at (480) 626-2388 to discuss your case today.
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