My family member petitioned for me. How long will it take before I can apply for my green card?

There is an annual limit on immigrant visas ("green cards") that may be issued to those seeking permanent residence in the United States based on family relationships who are not immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. The number of visas available is further limited by caps per country and the type of position ("preference category"). The length of time you will be required to wait before you can apply for your green card will be affected by these restrictions.

There is currently no limit to the number of visas available to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. If you are applying for a visa as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, you will not have to wait for a visa to become available before you can apply for permanent resident status. Immediate relative is defined as the parent, spouse, or minor child (unmarried and under 21) of a U.S. citizen.

If you are not an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, there are four family-sponsored visa preference categories. First preference includes unmarried adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. The second preference group includes spouses, minor children and unmarried adult sons and daughters of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs).The third preference includes the married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Finally, the fourth category includes siblings of U.S. citizens.

For the family based preference categories, there are typically more applicants per year than there are available visas. Therefore, the Department of State publishes monthly updates (the Visa Bulletin) of visa availability based on preference category, country of birth, and priority date. Your priority date is the date on which your family member filed the I-130 Immigrant Visa Petition. You may refer to the Visa Bulletin to determine when a visa will be available to you based on your country of birth, your priority date and your preference category. http://travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html.

Finally, before filing for permanent residence, you should make sure you are otherwise eligible to do so. Call our office today to schedule an appointment to discuss potential family-based visa options and/or to review your eligibility for adjustment of status with one of our experienced attorneys.

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