What to Expect: Family Immigration Processing Times in the U.S. (2024 Update)

family based immigration usa processing time

Family is the heart of immigration to the United States. For countless people seeking a better life, the dream often begins with reuniting with loved ones or joining family members who have already established roots in the U.S.

However, the journey is rarely straightforward, as the family-based immigration process can be a long road of paperwork, bureaucracy, and seemingly endless waiting periods.

Backlogs, policy changes, and external events can all contribute to the ebb and flow of these processing times and leave families in a state of uncertainty. Being well-informed about current realities can help families manage expectations as they take on the family immigration process.

Current Family Immigration Timelines: What to Expect in 2024

In 2024, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data reveals a range of processing times across different family-based immigration categories. From petitioning for a spouse as an immediate relative to adjusting a child’s status, this overview will shed light on what families can anticipate as they navigate this system in the months ahead.

I-130 Petition for Alien Relative

For many families, the I-130 petition is the crucial first step toward permanent family reunification in the United States. This form allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to formally establish an immigration visa petition for specific eligible relatives.

Immediate Relative: 11.2 months

Certain relationships are given the highest priority under U.S. immigration law. When petitioning for a spouse, unmarried child under 21, or parent, the I-130 for these “immediate relatives” tends to have a significantly faster processing time of around one year.

Adoptions: 33.1 months

Welcoming an adopted child into your family is an incredible journey. For those adopting from another country, the I-130 petition initiates the immigration process. However, with additional safeguards like background checks, the current processing time stretches to nearly three years.

I-485 Application to Adjust Status

For those already living in the U.S., often the final step toward lawful permanent residency is filing an adjustment of status application. Here’s what that timeline looks like:

Family-based adjustment: 9.8 months

If you’re currently in the U.S. and have an underlying family-based immigrant petition approved, the I-485 allows you to apply for a green card without leaving the country. The relatively short 10-month processing time can finally unite families under one permanent legal status.

I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions

For some immigrants, there’s one more hurdle after receiving a conditional green card based on a recent marriage. Don’t let the lengthy time frame deter you:

Spouses/children removing conditions: 25.3 months

Permanent residents who obtained their green cards based on a marriage less than two years old must later file the I-751 petition to have those conditions removed. While over two years may seem long, this thorough processing is designed to assess whether the marriage remains valid and not entered into solely to circumvent immigration laws.

With legal guidance, families can properly prepare for each step of this process as efficiently as possible based on current timeframes.

Factors Affecting USCIS Processing Times

USCIS Backlogs and Staffing Levels

One of the primary factors that influences processing times is the backlog of cases faced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As the agency responsible for approving immigration applications, USCIS has long grappled with a mounting caseload and staffing limitations.

USCIS field offices and service centers across the country bear the brunt of this burden, with some locations experiencing more significant backlogs than others. However, initiatives like Premium Processing, which allows for expedited review of certain applications, have alleviated some of the strain, but the underlying resource constraints still persist.

Policy Changes and Legislative Updates

Immigration policy is dynamic and ever-changing, with legal developments and executive orders directly impacting processing times. New policies or shifts in enforcement priorities can lead to bottlenecks in or expediting certain processes, disrupting the established wait times.

As immigration laws continually evolve, it’s important for families to stay informed and seek legal advice from qualified attorneys who can interpret these policies and explain how they affect their case.

COVID-19 and Other External Factors

The COVID-19 pandemic served as a stark reminder of the unpredictable nature of worldwide events and their potential to disrupt even the most well-established processes. Travel restrictions, consular office closures, and shifting priorities within government agencies all contributed to delays and backlogs in processing times.

While the long-term effects of the pandemic are waning, it’s clear that any significant external factor can impact the immigration system, a fact that underscores the importance of flexibility and resilience.

Strategies for Managing Processing Times

Accurate Filing and Case Preparation

When it comes to immigration applications and paperwork, getting every detail right matters immensely. A missing document or inaccurate information can easily derail your case, leading to frustrating delays, requests for additional evidence, or, in the worst cases, denials that set the entire process back unnecessarily.

At the Law Office of Lina Baroudi, we understand the importance of meticulously preparing immigration cases. By thoroughly reviewing each application and gathering all necessary supporting documentation, we aim to minimize the potential for setbacks and ensure a smooth progression through the various stages of the process.

Checking Case Status and Contacting USCIS

Knowledge is power, and staying informed about the status of your case can provide invaluable peace of mind. Through the USCIS Case Status Online tool or the Visa Bulletin, applicants can track the progress of their applications to learn where their case or application type stands in the processing queue.

However, there may be instances where direct communication with USCIS is necessary. We are well-versed in handling the USCIS Contact Center and will work to ensure that your inquiries are addressed efficiently and effectively.

Seeking Legal Assistance

Immigration laws are complicated and frequently change. It can be easy to miss important details or make mistakes without legal assistance.

Our immigration attorneys are dedicated to guiding you through every step of the process. From initial consultations to case preparation and representation, we offer a comprehensive range of services tailored to your unique circumstances.

Avoid Unnecessary Family Immigration Delays With Experienced Attorneys

Reuniting your family in the United States should be a joyful experience, but the immigration process can lead to frustrating delays if you go it alone. Simple paperwork errors, missed deadlines, or not fully understanding the requirements can unnecessarily prolong your separation from loved ones.

That’s where we, as experienced immigration attorneys, can make a world of difference. At the Law Office of Lina Baroudi, our team lives and breathes immigration law, so we know exactly what documentation and evidence to provide from the very start. Our experience helps prevent costly mistakes that could set you back months or even years.

With our knowledgeable legal guidance, you can move through the process efficiently. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Author Bio

Lina Baroudi is the owner and managing attorney at the Law Office of Lina Baroudi. Lina is a dedicated immigration attorney with over ten years of experience in the field. As an immigrant herself, having moved to the United States from Syria at a young age, Ms. Baroudi understands the challenges and complexities that immigrants face. Her personal connection to immigrant rights fuels her passion and commitment to achieving success for her clients.

Throughout her career, Lina has been recognized for her excellence in immigration law. She was listed in the California 2015-2020 Rising Stars List by Super Lawyers, an honor given to only 2.5 percent of attorneys in the state. Lina’s proficiency in the field is further evidenced by her role as a Law Clerk at the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District, where she gained invaluable experience and knowledge. She also received the prestigious Witkin Award for Academic Excellence in Immigration Law during her time at Golden Gate University School of Law.

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