The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer that conducts your interview is supposed to tell you at the end of the session whether or not your application has been approved.
However, this doesn’t always happen due to the numerous delays which plague the green card process.
Sometimes, the USCIS officer might have to refer your application to a supervisor for approval. This may delay your green card for up to 2 weeks.
In other cases, they’ll send you a Request for Additional Evidence (RFE). This process could add 1-3 months to your waiting time.
Even if the officer does immediately approve your application, you still won’t receive your green card for quite some time.
USCIS only issues green cards through the mail, and sometimes only several months after your initial interview.
When Will My Green Card Arrive?
USCIS doesn’t have an exact timeline for when you should expect to receive your green card.
For green card applicants who enter the U.S. with an immigrant visa, the USCIS website mentions that you should receive it around 120 days after you enter the U.S. or pay your processing fees, whichever comes later.
The important thing to remember is there is no time limit for when they must send you your green card.
The fact of the matter is that they’ll send you the green card when they finish processing the paperwork.
Sadly, this often takes several months.
To give you a better idea of how long you should expect to wait, you can check the USCIS Historic Processing Times for the last few years.
The waiting times for green card applicants are listed on the I-485 rows.
For example, as of March 3, 2020 (the last time we made significant edits to this article), the average waiting time for most green cards is between 9 and 13 months.
Often, USCIS will take several months to just mail out your Notice of Decision, and sometimes your green card can take even longer.
If you do not receive your welcome notice or green card within a few months of your interview, you should call USCIS customer service at 1-800-375-5283.
In addition, you should seriously consider speaking with an immigration attorney to make sure your green card isn’t delayed any longer than it already has been.
Finally, you should also contact USCIS customer service if you plan to move, or have already moved, before receiving your green card. Otherwise, they might send it to the wrong address.
What Should I Do After I Receive My Green Card?
The immigration process doesn’t end once you’ve received your green card.
Generally, the next step is applying for U.S. citizenship after living in the country for a few years. This process is called naturalization.
You can learn more about naturalization by reading the guides we’ve linked below.
In them, we cover the three most common questions green card holders have about the U.S. citizenship process:
- Is naturalization worth the effort?
- How much does it cost to apply for U.S. citizenship?
- Can I file for U.S. citizenship if I have a criminal record?
In addition, petitioners outside the country should browse the U.S. Department of Travel’s website.
USCIS also provides numerous other resources on their website.
Remember to always speak with an immigration attorney before making any final decisions about the naturalization process.
An attorney can help you navigate the system and make sure that your immigration and naturalization processes go as smoothly as possible.