Waiting Periods and Quotas for Family-Based Visas

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Most Common Immigration Law Issues:

What is a Family-Based Immigration Visa?

A U.S. citizen may petition their foreign relatives to immigrate to the U.S. through a Family-Based Immigration Visa.  The family-based visa category is divided into two basic categories: Immediate Relatives and Family Preferences.  The Family Preference category is further divided into 5 different sub-categories.

Family-based visas are distributed according to a quota system.  This means that only a limited amount of family-based visas may be issued every year.  For this reason, there can be a significant waiting period involved once the visa application is submitted. 

What is the Waiting Period for the “Immediate Relatives” category?

Waiting periods and quotas for each category may vary according to several factors, including the year of application and the alien’s country of origin.  In general the following information applies to applicants under the Immediate Relatives category:

In addition, aliens who qualify under the immediate relative category may submit their documents through a streamlined process which allows for quicker filing.  For example, both the petition and the visa application may be submitted at the same time under this category.

What are the Waiting Periods and Yearly Quotas for the “Family Preference” categories?

Again, the specific details for the Family Preference categories may vary.  Also, quotas for the Preference categories are different each year, since unused visas from one category (if any) may rollover into another category. 

The following information is generally applicable to the Family Preference categories:

Family 1st Preference:

Family 2nd Preference:

Family 3rd Preference:

Family 4th Preference:

Family 5th Preference (“Fiance Visa”):

Do I Need a Lawyer for Family-Based Immigration Visas?

Immigration law can sometimes be complex, and they are often subject to change every year.  More specific details and charts can be viewed at the website for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. 

If you have further questions or need representation in a court of law, an immigration lawyer can provide advice.  Your attorney can assist you in filing the necessary documents in a timely manner so as to avoid delays.

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Last Modified: 05-29-2013 12:07 PM PDT

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