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How Long Does It Take for Immigration Judge To Make a Decision?

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When you’re hoping for a green card, the wait can feel endless. You may find yourself asking: how long does it take for an immigration judge to make a decision? Your case goes through immigration court proceedings, and it’s not a fast process.

The journey begins with a master calendar hearing, which leads to a merits hearing. Unfortunately, immigration judges are often swamped with a backlog of cases, meaning it can take from months to even years to get your decision. If there’s disagreement, the case can also reach the Board of Immigration Appeals.

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But what affects these timelines? What can you do to possibly speed things up?

Read on, as we dive deeper into the complex world of immigration proceedings, offering insights to help you understand the journey to your green card.

What are the Factors that Affect the Length of Immigration Proceedings?

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When it comes to understanding how long it takes for an immigration judge to make a decision, there are several key factors to consider. The length of immigration proceedings can vary greatly based on a variety of circumstances, ranging from the specifics of your case to the overall backlog in the immigration courts.

Complexity of Your Case

One crucial factor is the complexity of your case. The immigration court process is inherently intricate and varies significantly based on the specifics of each individual’s situation. More complex cases typically involve removal proceedings or serious criminal convictions and, therefore, take longer to resolve. These cases necessitate a detailed review of facts and laws, which in turn requires extensive immigration court hearings.

Individual Hearing

The individual hearing, also known as the merits hearing, is the stage where an immigration judge reviews the details of your case. This hearing can be short or long, depending on the complexity of the case and the amount of evidence to be presented. The more complex the case, the more likely it is that several hearings will be needed, which can significantly lengthen the process.

Your Immigration Status

Your immigration status also plays a role. If you are currently in the United States without legal status, the Department of Homeland Security may initiate removal proceedings, which can lengthen the process. Conversely, those with legal status undergoing proceedings may find the process to be quicker. However, keep in mind that every case is unique and timelines can vary even within these groups.

Immigration Court Backlog Cases

Another factor affecting the length of the process is the overall backlog of cases in immigration courts. With a continuously growing number of individuals seeking to change their immigration status or fighting removal, the immigration court system often has a significant backlog. This can delay the scheduling of initial hearings, as well as subsequent proceedings.

Citizenship and Immigration Services Policies

Additionally, the policies of the Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security(1), can influence the timeline. Changes in immigration policy can slow down or speed up the rate at which cases are processed. For example, a change in policy might prioritize certain types of cases, which could affect the speed at which your case is processed.

The Efficiency of Your Legal Representation

The speed and efficiency of your legal representation can also impact the timeline. Experienced immigration lawyers often navigate the system more quickly, ensuring that all paperwork is filled out accurately and promptly, which can help avoid delays.


Lastly, any appeals that are made can further extend the length of the immigration process. If the immigration judge’s decision is not in your favor, you have the option to appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals. This can add several more months or even years to your case.

To sum it up, the duration of immigration proceedings depends on several factors including the complexity of your case, your current immigration status, the backlog of the immigration court, changes in policy, the effectiveness of your legal representation, and potential appeals. Understanding these factors can provide a clearer picture of what to expect from your own immigration court proceedings. 

What Can You Do to Speed Up the Process?

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1. Understand Your Case

Every immigration court case is unique and understanding your case is crucial to navigating the process swiftly. Familiarize yourself with immigration law relevant to your situation. This helps in anticipating potential challenges, understanding the implications of each step, and making informed decisions. 

2. Prepare Thoroughly for Each Stage

Immigration cases often consist of several stages including a first hearing notice and subsequent hearings. Thorough preparation for each stage will reduce delays. For instance, gather and organize all required documents and evidence promptly to avoid postponements.

3. Hire an Immigration Lawyer

An immigration lawyer can make a significant difference in the speed of your immigration case. Experienced lawyers understand the intricacies of immigration law and can present strong legal arguments on your behalf. They can also help to ensure all paperwork is filled out correctly and submitted on time, thus avoiding unnecessary delays.

4. Respond to Requests Promptly

The government attorney handling your case may request additional information or documents. Prompt response to such requests can speed up the case. Delays in response can result in rescheduling of hearings, causing further delays.

5. Consider the Cost-Benefit of Appeals

While the appeal process is an important right, it’s essential to consider the cost-benefit before pursuing an appeal. Appeals can considerably lengthen the timeline of your immigration case. Besides, they can lead to increased legal fees and don’t necessarily guarantee a positive outcome. It’s wise to discuss this with your lawyer before making a decision.

6. Follow Legal Advice

Your immigration lawyer’s advice is based on a deep understanding of the law and years of experience. Following their advice can avoid missteps that might delay your case. For instance, missing a hearing can result in a longer process or even a removal order.

7. Maintain Good Conduct

While this might seem obvious, it’s essential to mention that maintaining good conduct, both legally and socially, is important. Any legal issues or serious criminal convictions during the proceedings can complicate your case, potentially resulting in delays or unfavorable outcomes.

Final Thoughts


While immigration court proceedings can be lengthy, understanding the factors influencing the process and adopting proactive measures can help streamline your journey. It’s essential to navigate this complex process with guidance from professionals.

If you’re in Mesa, AZ, consider partnering with Westover Law Firm. Our dedicated team is committed to helping you understand the ins and outs of your immigration case, providing the advice and support you need every step of the way.

Reach out to us today, and let’s start the journey toward achieving your immigration goals.

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