How much time the process of seeking a green card for an eligible relative of a U.S. citizen takes can be affected by many factors. One is what happens in relation to the immigration petition. For example, mishaps when it comes to petitioning, such as not filing the right forms, could delay the process. This is among the reasons why having an experienced lawyer help with the petitioning process can be so important for a U.S. citizen when trying to get a family member a green card.
Another thing that can impact the time frame for the process of seeking permanent resident status for a qualifying family member is the exact type of family member involved. Not all qualifying family members are treated the same under immigration law. For example, there are some big differences in how immediate relatives are treated as compared to relatives in the family preference category.
Relatives generally considered immediate relatives are: parents (where the U.S. citizen is over 21), spouses and unmarried children under 21. Relatives that generally fall into the family preference category include: siblings, married sons and daugthers, and sons and daughters over 21.
One time-frame-related thing which of these two categories a qualifying relative of a U.S. citizen falls into impacts is whether the qualifying relative will have to be on a waiting list to get permanent resident status. This is because there is no limit on how many green cards the U.S. can give to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens in a year, while there is such a limit when it comes to family preference category relatives of U.S. citizens. So family preference category relatives can end up having to be on a green card waiting list, possibly a long one, while immediate relatives typically will not.
Experienced immigration law attorneys can help U.S. citizens looking to have a relative become a permanent resident understand what to expect in their immigration case and how the specifics of their case could affect things like the time-frame for their case.
Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Green Card for a Family Member of a U.S. Citizen," Accessed Jan. 26, 2016