The Availability of Immigrant Visas (Green Cards)

Except for certain immediate relatives, the number of immigrant visas that can be issued in a fiscal year is limited, in terms of both the overall number available for family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, and diversity immigration, and in terms of the number of immigrant visas that can be given to citizens of any one country. There is also a further annual limit on the number of visas given to EB-3 “other workers.”

Because of these annual limits, the number of persons approved by the USCIS as eligible for an immigrant visa can exceed the State Department’s yearly supply of visas. If there are no more immigrant visas left for the year, you will be put on a waiting list, with a “priority date” established according to the time your petition or labor certification was filed. The length of time you will have to wait depends on how many other people, and how many of your fellow countrymen, have applied for the type of visa you seek, and on the speed with which the State Department can process visa applications. It is not unusual for an immigrant visa to be unavailable for an applicant for many years. For this reason, temporary (“non-immigrant”) visas are more often than not the first option for foreign nationals seeking to relocate to the United States.