Immigrant Visa Questions II

Ask the Consul

Installment One Hundred Twenty-Eight

This edition of Ask the Consul continues from Installment 127 to address additional questions that applicants ask concerning permanent migration to the United States.

How do I apply for an immigrant visa?

An immigrant visa is required for foreign citizens who plan to live permanently in the United States of America. In order to apply for an immigrant visa, a qualifying family member or employer needs to file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Additional information regarding filing a petition is available on USCIS website,

After USCIS approves the petition, they transfer the application to the National Visa Center (NVC) in the United States for initial processing. All documents associated with the petition will remain at the NVC until the applicant is eligible for an appointment. The local U.S. Embassy or Consulate does not receive any information about the petition until the NVC has scheduled the appointment. Once the NVC has scheduled an appointment, the applicant is required to appear at a local U.S. embassy or consulate for an interview and to provide any supporting documentation. Following the interview, a consular officer will inform the applicant of the status of their case.

Once my petition has been filed, how long does it take to become eligible for an immigrant visa?
The timing for an appointment depends on your visa classification. The Consular officer will review your qualifications and conduct the visa interview to determine eligibility. The classification of the immigrant visa determines whether or not there is a worldwide limit to how many visas can be issued each year.

For immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, including spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21, there is no annual limit. Immediate relatives are eligible for an interview after USCIS has approved and processed the petition in the United States and sent it to the U.S. Embassy. Usually the processing time for the U.S. Embassy to receive the petition ranges from six months to a year after it has been filed.

For all other relatives of U.S. citizens, including adult children and siblings, as well as the relatives of U.S. Legal Permanent Residents, including spouses and children, there are worldwide limits. The local U.S. Embassy does not determine the limit. Section 201 of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act sets an annual minimum family sponsored preference limit of 226,000 and the per-country limit is set at 7 percent of the total annual family-sponsored and employment-based preference limit.

Since there is a limit and applications are being processed from all over the world, applicants will have to wait several years until they are eligible for a visa interview. Applicants become eligible based on when their family in the U.S. filed the petition on their behalf. The date the petition was filed is the applicant’s priority date and effectively determines the applicant’s place on the waiting list.

When the priority date becomes current, the applicant is scheduled for an interview. For more information regarding visa limits and to determine which priority dates are current, please check the monthly visa bulletin available online at

How long is the wait for each visa classification?
It depends, because priority dates are determined each month based on the previous month’s worldwide issuances. Depending on the visa classification, applicants in numerically limited visa categories can expect to wait between five and ten years from their priority date to the date of their interview at a local U.S. embassy or consulate.
“Ask the Consul” is a bi-weekly column from the U.S. Embassy answering questions about U.S. immigration law and visa issues. If you have a general question about visa policy please email it to us at We select questions every other week and publish the answers in Stabroek News and on our website at . Information about visas and travel can be viewed at http://georgetown.,, and at Applicants are strongly encouraged to

prepare their own documents and avoid third-party advice. U.S. Consular rules change frequently and non-US government advisors often provide inadequate or inaccurate information.

Other than the questions we select, we DO NOT respond to questions sent to Ask the Consul. Please contact the visa inquiries unit (email or call 225-7965 between 8 am and 4 pm Monday through Friday) if you have questions about a specific case

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