If you are a foreigner being sponsored for a family, or if you are an employment-based green-card holder being in a category of the applicant that faces annual numerical limits on visas, you might face a long wait.

How long you will wait for it depends on what type of visa you have applied for and on availability and demand in that category. Moreover, the waiting period might be affected by the per-country limits on visas. This especially can make the wait long for people from some countries like China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines.

Finding Your Place on the Waiting List

The State Department publishes a Visa Bulletin monthly. It is a source of relevant information on visa waiting periods.

On that website, you can find the chart for “Family-Sponsored Preferences” and two more for “Employment-Based Preferences.” These charts will tell you when you can apply for a visa. Moreover, you can find out when the visa actually can be given to you. Here are some tips on how to loo in these charts:

  1. First, locate your preference category in the column on the left.
  2. On the top, locate your country. Countries mentioned above (India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines) often have specified columns because of the large number of applicants, and it means that usually, they wait longer.
  3. You will also have the cutoff date — the key time that you will compare with your priority date to map your progress.

Every prospective immigrant has his or her priority date. The priority date is the date when USCIS first received the I-130, or when the Department of Labor received the labor certification request by your employer petitioner. Your priority date will be on your paperwork from one of these agencies.

The earlier your priority date is will mean you are in line ahead of others, but the current cutoff date will not tell you how long you will wait before your visa or green card is available. But, the Visa Bulletin website provides information on how long previous applicants are waiting for visas, so you can check what an approximate waiting time is.

Sometimes the government feds up with a large number of visa applications. This is usually a reason why the cutoff dates are prolonged for months.

Don’t get confused with a box containing the letter C or U instead of a date. The letter C stands for “current,” and it means there are numbers of visas in that category, and it means no one has to wait. On the other side, the letter U stands for “unavailable,” indicating the opposite – the visas have already been distributed. In other words, you have to wait for the next deadline.

What If You Have Changed The Address?

If you, your family member or employer who petitioned change addresses, you have to contact the National Visa Center (NVC). This contact point keeps your case file until your priority date is close to being current. You can notify them online using the Public Inquiry Form.

Your Priority Date Is Current- What Now?

When you finally see a later date or the letter “C” on the “Dates for Filing” on the Visa Bulletin website, you will know that your priority date became current.

Right after you notice this, you don’t have to wait for the government to call you. Instead, you can contact the NVC and ask for the appropriate instructions.

Nevertheless, if you are at the moment in the United States and eligible to apply for your green card visa that requires being either in lawful immigration status or is an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, you shall not wait for an invitation. Alternatively, you can submit your adjustment of status to USCIS. You can only do this if USCIS confirmed that you could use the Visa Bulletin filing date. This information The Visa Bulletin page will provide.

If you or the person who was your petitioner didn’t tell USCIS on the I-130 form that you would be adjusting status, then you can contact the NVC and tell it you’re in the U.S. now and so that it can forward your file to USCIS.

When you file your application, the State Department will not be able to give you an immigrant visa until your priority date is current in the “Application Final Action Dates” chart.

When No One Noticed Your Current Priority Date

Maybe you forget to check the Visa Bulletin, or maybe the NVC has tried to notify you, but you missed to provide the new address, or the NVC might have failed to keep track. This can cause a problem in delay or even ruin your plans of migrating.

Still, after your priority date becomes current in the “Application Final Action Dates” chart, you will have one year to pursue your visa or green card. If you miss this as well, the government will perceive you have quit, and the next person in the line will get your visa number to the next.
Keep track of your priority date, and take steps to pursue your application once it becomes current.

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