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Green card processing times and status changes

Getting married or divorced may change the wait time for a green card for some Illinois people. This was the case for one man whose mother, a U.S. citizen from the Philippines, had filed an immigrant petition for him in 2005 when he was unmarried. As the unmarried adult child of a citizen, this placed him the category "First Preference".

Five years later, the man married. He then slipped down into the category of "Third Preference", which has a much longer wait time. This is the category for the married adult child of a U.S. citizen. However, several years later, the man's wife filed for divorce.

Once the divorce is final, the man can show a valid divorce decree to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and will be restored to "First Preference". He should then be able to apply for a green card immediately since per a May 2019 visa bulletin, petitions filed on or before May 15, 2007, are in process. He would have a much longer wait if he remained "Third Preference" since the agency is only up to petitions filed on October 8, 1996, or earlier.

As this case demonstrates, some family statuses are more advantageous than others when it comes to obtaining a green card. As a result, people who are waiting on green card eligibility may want to stay abreast of processing times and may change their plans based on those times. For example, a person who is about to become eligible as the adult child of a citizen might want to postpone marriage. An attorney may be able to advise regarding this and other elements of applying for a green card or obtaining citizenship. The complexities of immigration law and its fast-changing nature may make it difficult for some people to navigate without legal advice.

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