Why are there long wait times for a visa? I already have an approved immigrant petition. Why do I have to wait over 20 years to come to the United States?
U.S. immigration law allows U.S. citizens to file a petition to sponsor their parents, spouses, children and siblings for green cards. Similarly, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs or green card holders) can petition for their spouses and unmarried children to come to the United States. There are always visas available for immediate relatives (parents, spouses and minor children) of U.S. citizens, but for all other family members, there are annual numerical limits.
In addition to these numerical limits, the law also limits the number of immigrants coming to the U.S. from any one country to prevent any one immigrant group from dominating immigration patterns to the United States. This has resulted in extremely long wait times for applicants from certain countries, especially brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens from mainland China (13 years), India (14 years), Mexico (22 years), and Philippines (24 years). Click here for May 2017 Visa Bulletin. Infographics courtesy of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
The per-country limits also result in above-average wait times for employment-based visa applicants. According to the May 2017 Visa Bulletin, those in the EB-3 Skilled Workers & Professionals Category applicants from India will have to wait 12 years for a visa. Follow this link to Annual Report of Immigrant Visa Applicants in the Family-sponsored and Employment-based preferences Registered at the National Visa Center as of November 1, 2016 for more information.
Can I Apply for a Nonimmigrant Visa When I Have a Pending Immigrant Petition?
Foreign nationals whose relatives have filed immigrant petitions for them and are waiting for a visa to become available may be eligible to apply for nonimmigrant visas while they wait, such as the H-1B, L-1 or E-2. For example, if you are applying for the E-2 visa, which is not a “dual intent” visa, (meaning you need to have an intent to depart the U.S. when the visa ends), you should consult with an immigration attorney to determine the proper strategy.
The bar for proving you have an intent to depart the U.S. is generally very low for E-2 visas – a written declaration usually suffices – but this bar is raised when an E-2 applicant has a pending immigrant petition. However, in some circumstances, you can still qualify for the E-2 visa with a showing of sufficient documentation that proves significant ties to your home country. For example, if an E-2 visa applicant has a sibling green card petition outstanding where there is a 7-year wait, he/she would not necessarily be precluded from getting an E-2 visa.
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