Many people labor under the misapprehension that immigrants waiting to be admitted to the United States as citizens must all wait in one big line. In reality, there are as many types of “lines” as there are visa categories, and all of them are strictly regulated and portioned off. There are only certain amounts of people granted visas for each type of visa from each country per year, and those who are in that ‘line’ very often must wait years upon years before being granted what they asked for.
Everyone Must Wait
With rare exceptions for unusual visa categories, nearly everyone who submits an immigrant visa petition must wait for there to be available space in the quota. Grants of each visa are circumscribed by both total amount and country of origin - in other words, there might be visas left over during a specific year, but a country’s allotment may run out beforehand. Queues for employment-based visas can be long, but waits for family-based visas are by far the longest in most cases.
Because wait times can stretch into the decades, every case is assigned a preference category and a priority date. Preference categories are for different types of families of U.S. citizens or LPRs (lawful permanent residents, those who hold green cards). Some family is not subject to numerical limits on visas - for example, unmarried minor children of U.S. citizens may apply immediately for a visa. Family which is either less immediate or more able to apply on their own is generally relegated to the preference categories - unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens, spouses and minor children of LPRs, and siblings of U.S. citizens are some examples of the family required to wait until there is numerical availability for visas.
A priority date is the marker by which someone in a preference category can check their place in the visa queue. It is usually the date on which the person’s paperwork is officially submitted. The calendar for processing visas, however, does not move in real time because sometimes it can take more than one day’s worth of work to process a visa or series of visas. As such, the priority date calendar is markedly behind the real-time calendar.
If one examines the Visa Bulletin, which is put out monthly by the U.S. Department of State, one can see that some “chargeability areas” have priority dates much earlier than others. For example, the most recent Bulletin shows that visas in the family preference category 1 (F1) for applicants from India will be just now given to those whose paperwork was accepted on April 22, 2011. This means that since 2011, the people in that category have been waiting for their visas. Only when one’s priority date is current can the visa proceedings go ahead, but many are unaware of this fact.
Contact an Experienced Immigration Lawyer
Because priority dates can be a long time off, you may be left with questions about your case. If you are in the middle of applying for a family-based visa, contacting an attorney can help clarify matters. The passionate Chicago immigration lawyers at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can try and answer your questions. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.
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