Home » Articles » Immigration » Family Members Wait Decades for Visa to Come to the United States

Family Members Wait Decades for Visa to Come to the United States

How long do you have to wait for a visa to immigrate to the United States? It is a complicated question but depending on each case it could be a matter of a few weeks and in other cases, it takes decades to come legally to this country.

Visas for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and work based visas are faster

The Department of State has two different types of visas: non-numerically limited and numerically limited. Those unlimited are available only for immediate relatives of United States citizens like the spouse, minor children (under the age of 21 years old) or parents.

And within the numerically limited, there are 675,000 visas available per year. There are those employment based and family sponsored limited visas. Due to a low demand for foreign workers, most of the employment based visas have a current status right now compared with previous years and it takes an average of one to six weeks to process a visa application, according to the Visa Bulletin, a monthly publication of the Department of State about the number of visas available for each month and each category.

All categories of family sponsored visas are issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the numerical limit for that category is reached. The first priority is for unmarried children of U.S. citizens who are over 21 years old. Next comes spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents.

The filing date of a petition becomes the applicant’s priority date (which is also published in the Visa Bulletin). Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant’s priority date is reached. In certain heavily oversubscribed categories, there may be a waiting period of several years before a priority date is reached. For certain countries like China, India, Mexico and the Philippines (countries that send the largest amount of immigrants to the United States), there are people who filed an application for a visa since 1988 and their cases are still pending a response.

Although it is a common phrase against legalization of undocumented immigrants to say “go back to the line”, people don’t realize that the line can be 15 years long, says immigration attorney Griselda Ponce from Austin, Texas. “It is unnatural what they require”, says Ponce. “Many legal immigrants leave their children behind and have to wait years before they can bring the family together again”, says Ponce.