The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) divides the immigration visas for family members of United States residents into two categories. The first is “Immediate Relative” immigrant visas, and the second is “Family Preference” immigrant visas.
Immediate Family Relative visas refer to the immigration of individuals who are:
- Children under 21 years old;
- Adopted minor children; or
- Parents of United States citizens who are at least 21 years old.
The United States does not set any limits on the number of Immediate Family visas it will grant in a given year. This means there is no wait time other than the normal government processing times.
Family Preference visas refer to:
- Unmarried children of U.S. citizens who are older than 21 and their minor children;
- Spouses, minor children, and unmarried older children of Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs);
- Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, as well as their spouses and children; and, finally,
- Siblings of U.S. citizens and their minor children, provided the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old.
The problem with the family preference category is the United States sets a fiscal year limit on the number of family preference visas it will grant, and most of these are allocated to the spouses and minor children of LPRs. Because the number of individuals eligible to receive Family Preference visas often exceeds the available number of visas, there is a waiting period for those who apply. These visas will then be issued in the chronological order in which the visa petitions were applied for by the visa applicant’s U.S. sponsor. In certain categories with many approved petitions compared to available visas, there may be a waiting period of several years or more before the visa is issued. Certain countries are looking at a wait time of over 20 years.
It is important to talk with an attorney about the potential time it will take to get your family member to the United States. Many factors need to be considered such as the family relationship and even what county your relative is from. Each case is different which means it is important you talk with an experienced immigration attorney. The problem we see many times is frustration of how long the process takes so the family will decide to not file a petition. Then ten years pass and their family member still has no way of immigrating. This can be frustrating for the families knowing that if they would have just filed the petition and started the process, their loved one could be here.
It is important to start the process as soon as possible even if you are looking at waiting a few years for your family member to be able to come. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to determine all of your options and the approximate time it will take. Call us at 972-885-6625.