Waiting for a Visa

U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents can petition for green cards for  their family members. Find out why it can sometimes take months or years for them to get their visas.

U.S. law establishes categories of visa types, some of which have annual limits. 

FAMILY-BASED PETITIONS

for spouses, parents, and children (if unmarried and under age 21) of U.S. citizens

NO LIMIT

Visas are always available for people in this category.

BASIC WAIT TIMES STILL APPLY

Click here for current USCIS application processing times. 

OTHER FAMILY-BASED PETITIONS

for children (over age 21) and siblings of U.S. citizens; and spouses and children of legal permanent residents

AND EMPLOYMENT-BASED PETITIONS

LIMIT

There are only a certain number of visas available each year. 

WAIT TIMES VARY

Check the State Department's visa bulletin each month for updated priority dates

 

It depends on what kind of visa you're applying for and what country you're from. Watch the video to learn more. 

 

New bulletins are released every month. Identifying your visa category and country of origin can help you get a better idea of how long your wait might be.

Remember that the dates shown in the visa bulletin don't necessarily correspond to the number of months or years until your application becomes current. You can find the most recent visa bulletins on the Department of State's website

For a full description of these categories and to see the employment-based visa categories, read the text in any month's visa bulletin.

Unmarried children (over age 21) of U.S. citizens

23,400 visas 

Spouses and children of legal permanent residents (LPRs)

87,934 visas

Unmarried children (over age 21) of LPRs

26,266 visas

Married children of U.S. citizens 

23,400 visas 

Siblings of U.S. citizens

65,000 visas 

Legal permanent residents can only petition for immediate family members, and even then the number of available visas is limited. Citizens have much shorter wait times for most family members and can petition for siblings and parents. Naturalizing as soon as you're eligible can move your petition up in the waiting list. 

 

Even though visa wait times can be long, filing an I-130 petition guarantees you a spot in line and may work to your benefit in the event that you are deported or the law changes.

Questions? See our I-130 page for common answers to doubts about the application process.

Benefits include: 

Protection against changes in the law 

If certain visa categories are eliminated in order to decrease the government's backlog, those with petitions already filed for them would likely receive visas. People without petitions would no longer be eligible to apply. 

Potential deportation defense 

Filing an immigration petition shows the government that you tried to follow the legal system but were unable to receive a visa. 

Faster access to immigration benefits

If new immigration legislation is passed or you suddenly become eligible for a visa, having an I-130 petition already filed for you can help you get a visa much faster.