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 rarely happens 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 two weeks. In other cases, they’ll send you a Request for Additional Evidence (RFE). This process which can 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 often 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. However, their 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. Green card applicants are listed by the I-485 rows. For example, as of 2018 the average is between 8 and 11 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.
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 comes next?
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?
However, you should 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.
[Updated August 7, 2018]