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What are the wait times for different family-based visa categories?

On Behalf of | Nov 7, 2023 | Family Immigration |

Families often find themselves separated by borders in today’s dynamic and interconnected world. To bridge these gaps, the United States offers a range of family-based visa categories that allow eligible individuals to reunite with their loved ones.

Familiarizing yourself with the waiting times for different family-based visa categories can help you plan for various visa application processes.

Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens

Naturally, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are granted the highest priority for family-based visas. This category includes:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens
  • Unmarried children (under 21) of U.S. citizens
  • Parents of U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old

The best part? There’s no waiting period for these visas. Once approved, these individuals can start their journey to the U.S. without delay. This expedited process aims to reunite families as quickly as possible.

Family preference visas

The family preference visa category is for more distant relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. This includes:

  • Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens: This preference level covers U.S. citizens’ adult children (21 years and older). On average, the waiting period for F1 visas is about 7 years.
  • Spouses and children (under 21) of permanent residents: The waiting period for this category can fall within the range of 2 to 2.5 years.
  • Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens: The waiting period for F3 visas can be quite extensive, with an average wait time of approximately 12 years.
  • Siblings of U.S. citizens: This has the longest waiting period of all family-based visas, with an average wait time of about 14 years.

The substantial waiting time for visas for siblings of U.S. citizens is mainly due to the high demand within this category.

Strategies for reducing wait times

It’s important to note that these wait times are approximate averages and can vary significantly based on several factors, including:

  • The country of origin
  • Visa availability
  • The petitioner’s relationship to the applicant

While you can’t control all the factors affecting visa wait times, there are some strategies to consider to expedite processing. For example, in certain situations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may offer expedited processing for humanitarian reasons or other exceptional circumstances.

In your pursuit of a family-based visa, understanding the wait times associated with different categories is crucial. While the U.S. government strives to reunite families, the demand for visas can result in significant waiting periods, especially in the family preference visa categories. Seeking legal guidance can help you to keep your application on track.