Is There A Waiting Period for My Immigrant Visa?
There are a limited number of immigrant visas available in each government fiscal year (October 1—September 30). These immigrant visas are allocated based on the preference category system. Immigrant Visa availability is published monthly in the US Department of State’s Visa Bulletin.
Highest preference is given to “immediate relative” family members of US citizens. “Immediate relatives” include US citizen’s spouses, parents and unmarried children under 21 years of age.
When pursuing Green Card through Family visa wait times are allocated by the applicable family preference category. There is no wait for the immigrant visa for an “immediate relative” of a US citizen. Immigrant visas for other beneficiaries of family-based petitions are allocated by preference category.
- First preference is for unmarried, adult (over 21) sons and daughters of US citizens.
- Second preference is for spouses of lawful permanent residents, their unmarried children (under 21 years) and the unmarried sons and daughter of permanent residents.
- Third preference is for married sons and daughters of US citizens.
- Fourth preference is for brother and sisters (siblings) of US citizens.
The wait time for an immigrant visa pursuant to the preference category system can be longer for immigrant beneficiaries who reside in some countries. The US immigration law also states that no more than 7% of the immigrant visas in a fiscal year can be given to citizens of nationals charged to any one country. As a result, countries with more immigrants have a longer wait for the immigrant visa to come available, i.e., a longer waiting line.
"Age Out" arises in a situation when a “child” applies for an adjustment of status, or consular processing, and during the processing of the application—before the immigrant visa or permanent residence is granted—the "child" turns 21 years of old, and becomes ineligible to become a permanent resident of the U.S. A child who turns 21 before his/her application for adjustment of status or application for immigration visa is adjudicated has "Aged Out", and has lost his/her eligibility for a Green Card under the old laws.
The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) has changed the scenarios in which "Age Out" applies, preventing some child applicants from "aging out" under certain circumstances. The CSPA applies to beneficiaries of a pending or approved visa petition that was filed on or after August 6, 2002. Additionally, the CSPA is designed to protect a beneficiary’s immigration classification as a child when s/he “ages out” due to excessive processing times. The CSPA can protect a beneficiary’s “child” status for family-based, employment-based, and even some humanitarian program immigrants.
Gerald Goulder is an experienced North Carolina immigration lawyer helping individuals and families in North Carolina and throughout the United States and around the world with immigrant visa waits, consular processing for immigrant visas and child age outs during the immigrant visa process.