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Visa Quotas: How do They Work?

Posted on in Immigration
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Chicago immigration attorneys, employment-based immigration, family-based immigration, family-based petitions, Mevorah Law Offices LLC, visa, visa quotas, visasThe word ‘quota’ has an ugly past, especially in the context of visas. In years past it was used as a bludgeon with which to deny safety to people in need. Today, there are more exceptions and protections for those truly in need, while visa quotas are reserved for those not in immediate danger. Still, there is a lot of misinformation about how the yearly caps work. If you are planning to apply for certain categories of visas, you must understand how the quota works lest you inadvertently disqualify yourself.

Family-Based Immigration

There are two classifications for visas available to those attempting to immigrate via a family-based petition. The first is for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens such as parents, children and spouses. There is no quota limit in force in this category. The second is for what are called preference categories—non-immediate relatives or people who are the wrong age to apply themselves (such as the child of a non-immigrant visa holder who is in the process of adjusting status).

For the second classification, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows 226,000 family-based visas to be granted per year. However, it is important to note that this is a minimum, not a maximum. The statutory wording refers to “at least” that amount being issued. The number actually issued each year varies. It is arrived at by subtracting the number of immediate relative visas and paroled immigrants from 480,000, and adding the number of unused employment preference visas.

Congress attempts to seek balance in nationality and also relationship to ensure that not too many of one category are permitted entry in any one year. Per-country ceilings are established under the INA that mandate that any given country may not exceed 7 percent of the number of permanent immigrants in a given year. This is not to restrict solely for restriction’s sake, but to ensure that no country dominates the number of visas granted each year. Such a thing would become a fairness issue.

There are four categories of preference for family-based petitions. They are:

    • F-1: Unmarried children of U.S. citizens (and their dependents);

    • F-2: Spouses and unmarried children of green card holders;

    • F-3: Married children of U.S. citizens (and their dependents); and

    • F-4: Siblings of U.S. citizens (and their dependents), if the U.S. citizen is over 21 years old.



Employment-Based Immigration

The amount of visas permitted under the INA for employment-based immigration is 140,000. The system is similar to that for family-based immigration. Temporary employees obtain their visas through their employers, but permanent employees are placed into one of five preference categories.

    • E-1: “Priority” workers. People of extraordinary ability. People who have been awarded a Nobel Prize would fit into this category.

    • E-2: “Members of the professions.” Workers that hold advanced degrees and have made significant contributions in their field.

    • E-3: Skilled and unskilled workers, usually with at least two years’ experience in their field.

    • E-4: Special immigrants. Usually religious workers or employees of specific organizations and/or the U.S. government.

    • E-5: Investors. A new category, this is for people who will create employment for at least 10 full-time American workers.



A Professional Can Help

If you still need assistance navigating the complex visa quota system, we can help. The Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are well-versed in immigration law, and we are happy to help you in your case. Contact our office today for a free consultation.

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