Family Based Immigrant Visa Availability – Rapid Progress Expected in the Coming Months
November 7, 2002

By federal statute, roughly 500,000 family-based immigrant visas and 140,000 employment based immigrant visas become available each fiscal year, which begins on October 1 and runs through September 30. This number does not include the 55,000 immigrant visas that become available each year through the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, a program which excludes citizens of several countries including the Philippines.

Despite the large number of available immigrant visas, long lines have formed in all of the family based categories since the demand for these visas is far greater than the supply. Excluding the a) spouses of U.S. citizens, b) the under 21 year old children of U.S. citizens and c) the parents of adult U.S. citizens – all of whom always have immediate visa availability, the waiting period for a family preference visa ranges from 5 to 25 years depending on the category and the country. Since the Philippines (along with Mexico) and is one of two countries where the demand for U.S. immigrant visas is particularly strong and disproportionate to the rest of the world, special visa lines are formed.

According to a recent statement by a high ranking U.S. Department of State official, however, it is expected that immigrant visa numbers for family based preference categories will move forward at an especially rapid rate in the coming few months. This condition is due to the extended delays in the distribution of immigrant visas over the past few months arising from post-September 11 agency mandated security checks for all applicants. And since much fewer visas were processed as a result of these delays, greater numbers appear to now be available for issuance.

Importantly, no visa lines exist at this time for any of the employment based immigrant visa categories, including unskilled workers. Thus, visa processing (whether in the U.S. or at a U.S. consular post abroad) for any employment based émigré can take place in a relatively short period of time, ranging from 6 months (for professionals such as nurses and physical therapists) to 2 or 3 years (for other types of workers where the unavailability of U.S. workers to perform the job must be documented). However, according to the State Department official, it is also expected that a visa numbers may start to become unavailable, or at least a cut off date established, for the increasingly popular unskilled worker category – a category that allows immigrant visas a variety of positions including domestic and elder care workers.

Copyright © 2002-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois