By Attorney Gail S. Seeram
Many of my clients often ask why the wait is so long for the issuance of visas.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets the number of immigrant visas that may be issued to individuals seeking permanent resident status (a green card) each year.
The U.S. Department of State is the agency that distributes visa numbers.
Family-sponsored preference categories are limited to 226,000 per year and employment-based preference visa are limited to 140,000 per year. In addition, there are limits to the percentage of visas that can be allotted to each country.
Immigrant visas available to “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens are unlimited, so are always available. Immediate relatives include, parents of a U.S. citizen, spouses of a U.S. citizen and, unmarried children under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen. Immigrant visa numbers for individuals in a “preference category” are limited, so are not always available.
Because the demand is higher than the supply of visas for a given year for some categories, a visa queue (waiting list) forms.
To distribute the visas among all preference categories, the Department of State gives out the visas by providing visa numbers according to the preference category and one’s priority date. The priority date is used to determine an individual’s place in line in the visa queue.
When the priority date becomes current, the individual will be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa. Your priority date can be found on the petition filed for you. The length of time you must wait in line before receiving an immigrant visa or adjusting status depends on: (1) the demand for and supply of immigrant visa numbers, (2) the per country visa limitations, and (3) the number of visas allocated for your particular preference category.
Priority Dates for Family-Sponsored Preference Cases:
For family-sponsored immigration, the priority date is the date that the petition is properly filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A properly filed petition contains the required signature(s), filing fee, and any supporting documentation required at the time of filing.
Priority Dates for Employment-Based Preference Cases:
The priority date for an immigrant petition that is based on employment is either the date the petition was properly filed with USCIS or the date the labor certification application was accepted for processing by the Department of Labor (when a labor certification is required).
When Visa Numbers Are Not Available:
If the demand is more than supply for a particular visa category or foreign state, and cannot be satisfied within the allowable limits, the Visa Office considers the preference visa category or foreign state “oversubscribed” and must impose a cut-off date.
In this instance, only overseas and adjustment applicants who have a priority date earlier than the date listed in the Visa Bulletin may be given an immigrant visa number. A visa is available to an individual, therefore, if his/her priority date is earlier than the date listed for that visa category and country.
Every month, we publish the current visa bulletin at www.GailLaw.com, click it on the right named “Visa Bulletin”.
For more information, contact Gail Law Firm:
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 1-877-GAIL-LAW or 407-292-7730
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