The most common questions on my YouTube videos come from viewers asking when their priority dates are likely to be current. I wish I could answer this question, but nobody can predict visa number progression accurately. This article explains why.
U.S. immigration laws limit the number of immigrant visa (“green cards”) issued every year. There are annual limits based on a combination of
Some family-based immigrants are not subject to the numerical caps: immediate relatives (spouses, parents, and children under 21 of US citizens) are outside the preference category system. These applicants have no backlog and just need to wait for normal processing to be finished before they can be approved.
The annual limit for total number of legal immigrants is 675,000. This is the maximum allotment of visa numbers (green cards) per year, whether they are issued via Adjustment of Status in the US or at a consulate, and whether they are family-based or employment-based. There are far more visa applicants than numbers available, which is why there are backlogs in some categories and for some countries.
What Are The Family-Based Limits?
The total number of family-based immigrant visas that can be approved each year is 480,000. This includes Immediate Relatives, so the actual limit is 480,000 minus the total number of Immediate Relatives who became permanent residents in the previous fiscal year (as well as a few other groups), plus any unused employment preferences numbers in the preceding year. If the result comes out to be below 226,000, the annual limit will be set at 226,000, as required by law.
In other words, the MAXIMUM number of visas available to the family preference categories each year is 226,000, but it could be fewer if there is a high demand for Immediate Relative visas.
This 226,000 is divided among the different categories as follows:
What Are The Country Limits for Family Cases?
No country can get more than 7% of the total annual family-sponsored limits. So, if the total family limit is 226,000, the maximum number of immigrant visas for each country is 15,820 in all family categories.
75% of the 114,200 visas available to the F2A category are exempt from this per-country cap. These are listed as FX below. The numbers are divided among the preference categories as follows:
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.