If you are a US citizen or lawful permanent resident planning to sponsor your foreign family member for a green card you probably wonder how long the process might take. The process of sponsorship of a family member might take from several months to several years depending on the status of the petitioner and the family relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary.
Immediate Relatives of U.S Citizen Are Exempt From Numerical Limits and per Country Quotas
The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) has created the category of so called immediate relatives of US citizens who are exempt from numerical limits and per country quotas. This means that the approval of a US citizen’s petition on behalf of his immediate relative makes the immigrant visa immediately available for the beneficiary. The category of immediate relatives embraces spouses, parents and unmarried children under 21 of US citizens. The approval of an immigration petition on behalf of an immediate relative generally takes about six months. The whole process of bringing an immediate relative to the US usually might take about a year.
Family Members Not Falling Under the Category of Immediate Relatives Are Subject to Numerical Limits and per Country Quotas
It might take several years for a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident to bring his relatives to the US if the relative does not fall under the category of immediate relatives of US citizens. Family members, not falling under the category of immediate relatives of US citizens, are divided into 4 preference categories, and only a specific number of visas can be issued in each specific category every year.
In addition to numerical limits for each preference category, there is also a per country quota on the number of visas that can be issued. Particularly, the yearly number of visas issued to citizens of any country under a specific preference category cannot exceed 7% of the limit allocated to the specific preference category. INA § 202(a)(2). As a result of the per country quota, aliens from certain countries have to wait much longer compared to aliens from other countries because much more petitions have been filed on behalf of the citizens of these countries.
When a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident files an immigration petition on behalf of his foreign family member a priority date is allocated to the specific case. US Department of State publishes a monthly visa bulletin which states the dates a final action was taken in each preference category. Based on the priority date allocated to a petition and the date of final action for the specific preference category, the petitioner and the foreign beneficiary can approximately determine how long they will have to wait until the immigrant visa becomes available. You can check the most recent visa bulletin for July 2017.
Pursuant to the Visa Bulletin for July 2017 the Waiting Times for All Four Preference Categories Are as Follows:
First Preference – Unmarried Sons and Daughters of US Citizens
The first preference includes unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens. Citizens of Mexico falling under this category have to wait approximately 21 years until their immigrant visa becomes available, citizens of the Philippines have to wait 11 years, while the citizens of all other countries shall wait 7 years.
Second Preference – Spouses and Unmarried Children of Permanent Residents
The second preference includes spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents. This preference is divided into 2 subcategories: (a) spouses and unmarried children under 21 of permanent residents, and (b) unmarried sons and daughters 21 and older of permanent residents.
F2A – Spouses and Unmarried Children Under 21 of Permanent Residents
Not less than 77 percent of visa numbers assigned to the second preference shall be allocated to spouses and unmarried children under 21 of permanent residents. INA § 203(a)(2). Also, 75% of visas issued to spouses and unmarried children under 21 of permanent residents is not subject to the per country limitation. INA § 202(a)(4)(A). These sections of INA are intended to shorten the waiting time for spouses and children under 21 of permanent residents. The waiting time for aliens falling under this category is about 2 years.
F2B – Unmarried Sons and Daughters 21 and Older of Permanent Residents
The second subcategory of the second preference includes unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents who are 21 or older. The waiting time for aliens falling under this subcategory is much longer compared to the first subcategory. Particularly, citizens of Mexico shall wait 21 years, citizens of the Philippines shall wait 11 years, while the citizens of all other countries have to wait 7 years.
Third Preference – Married Sons and Daughters of US Citizens
The third preference includes married sons and daughters of US citizens. Citizens of Mexico falling under this category shall wait approximately 22 years until their visa becomes available, citizens of the Philippines shall wait 23 years, while the citizens of all the other countries have to wait 12 years.
Fourth Preference – Brothers and Sisters of US Citizens
The fourth preference includes the brothers and sisters of adult US citizens. The waiting times for aliens falling under this category are as follows: citizens of Mexico shall wait approximately 20 years, citizens of the Philippines shall wait 23 years, citizens of China shall wait 14 years, while the citizens of all the other countries have to wait 13 years.
To sum up, the sponsorship of immediate relatives of US citizens is much easier compared to the sponsorship of family members falling under one of the preference categories. Family members that fall under one of the preference categories will have to wait for years until they get a chance to immigrate to the US.
Do You Need More Information About How Long It May Take to Bring Your Family Member to the US?
If you are a US citizen seeking to petition for an immigrant visa for an immediate relative or have questions regarding other family based immigration visas, we invite you to call our office and schedule a free immigration consultation with our Glendale immigration lawyer. We speak Spanish, Armenian, Russian, French, & Italian. Get help from a professional who is experienced with immigration law.
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