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Understanding Visa Availability

January 26, 2016

Immigration attorneys are frequently asked by clients how long it will take to obtain a green card. In the United States, this depends on several factors: whether the applicant is proceeding via a family or employment petition, the applicant’s relationship to the petitioner if the petition is family-based, the particular employment-based visa the applicant is approved for if the petition is employment-based, and the applicant’s country of nationality. The U.S. State Department controls visa availability and issues a monthly visa bulletin – located here: – to let the public know which priorities dates are current. Think of the priority date as a cut-off date that corresponds to the receipt date of the original petition. By looking at the tables in the visa bulletin, you can see how long it will take for a particular applicant to be eligible to apply for a green card.

For family-based petitions, the “preference category” is important to understand. This corresponds to the relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary in a given petition. The preference categories are defined as follows:

First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens
Second (F2): Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents
A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents
B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents
Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens
Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens

The priority date reflected for a particular visa category will let you know that the government will process immigrant visa applications for those whose priority date falls on or before the date reflected in the bulletin. How many known applicants there are to available visas will determine if you should use the “Application Final Action Dates” or “Dates for Filing Visa Applications” tables. It’s important to note that immigrant petitions filed for the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens – spouses, parents, and minor children – are deemed to always have visas immediately available.

Once you determine that your priority date is current, the applicant will proceed either via adjustment status through USCIS if lawfully present in the United States, or via consular processing through the State Department if located overseas.

For assistance with immigrant visa petitions, adjustment of status applications, and consular processing of immigrant visas, contact the immigration attorneys at Fears Nachawati for a consultation.


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