This is a common question with a disappointing answer for some. A lawful permanent resident will wait significantly longer, perhaps, quite a few years for their spouse to immigrate.
If you can qualify for citizenship by naturalization, without getting deported, then this is in your best interests. It is best to discuss this with an experienced attorney, since there are civil immigration violations, not just criminal, that can result in deportation.
The USCIS provides estimates for its processing, as well as the State Department, but these estimates are not always accurate and often confusing. Processing depends upon the number of petitions in the system. It also depends upon whether the I-130 petition contains all required documents for a particular case. In some situations, some applicants need more evidence than others. Encouraging a quick filing can complicate matters and cause additional delays at USCIS.
Once a decision is made, the I-130 petition will be either be (a) approved by USCIS and referred to the National Visa Center; (b) denied by USCIS; (c) appealed to the BIA for a redetermination; or (d) re-filed at USCIS. The processing time for each of these options varies quite a bit from months to years. The outcome will affect which options are undertaken.
Assuming that the petition is approved, then it 'should be transferred' to the National Visa Center of the U.S. State Department. At that point, the petitioner must pay additional fees and prepare additional forms to the satisfaction of the State Department. Delays may occur where the Visa Center needs more documentation or further clarification.
Assuming that the above step is completed, then the petition awaits review and an appointment at the consulate or embassy where the visa packet will be issued. This can vary depending upon which consulate or embassy the visa will process. When the appointment is scheduled, an applicant must undergo a medical examination at a U.S. approved certified civil surgeon.
If a person is denied based upon health grounds, the consular officials may deny or hold the petition for up to three years after the interview. Although denials for health grounds are uncommon, these do occur for a variety of reasons. You may wish to discuss this issue further, where there are concerns.
When the interview takes place, the forms will be reviewed for accuracy and truthfulness. If there are reasons to disqualify a person, there may be an opportunity for the petitioner to file what is called a waiver of the grounds of inadmissibility. However, some reasons for denial cannot be waived or pardoned.
If granted, the beneficiary or foreigner has a limited time to enter the U.S.
For a candid and realistic immigration attorney to estimate how long anyone will take to get through the process requires a bit of guess work, but significantly more review. In the world of averages, not everyone fits in. Some who wish to gamble may claim that it will take a U.S. Citizen petitioner and his spouse or fiance between 10 to 15 months. Our office thinks it best to take the process one step at a time.
The above is general information and does not create an attorney client relationship.