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The Immigrant Visa Number and Priority Date for a
U.S. Citizen's Brothers and Sisters Green Card Application

1. The U.S. Immigrant Visa Number

The immediate family members of the brother or sister may apply for a Green Card with the sponsorship of a U.S. citizen. The annual visa number available for this preference is 65,000, plus any visas not used by the first three preferences. To apply for a Green Card for his or her brother or sister, a U.S. citizen must be 21 years of age or older. Furthermore, to qualify as a brother or sister of a U.S. citizen, both the brother or sister and the U.S. citizen must have been children of the same parent.

U.S. immigration law limits the number of immigrant visas that are available every year. This means that even if the USCIS approves an immigrant visa petition for an alien, the alien may not get an immigrant visa number immediately. In some cases, several years could pass between the time USCIS approves an immigrant visa petition and the U.S. Department of State gives the alien an immigrant visa number.

In addition, U.S. immigration law also limits the number of immigrant visas available by country. This means an alien may have to wait longer if the alien comes from a country with a high demand for U.S. immigrant visas. If the number of applicants exceeds the number of visas available under a particular category, that category is considered oversubscribed.

2. The "Priority Date" for a U.S. Citizen's Brothers and Sisters

The filing date of the petition is called the applicant's "Priority Date." A visa cannot be issued until the priority date is reached. This means that there may be a lengthy waiting period. Sometimes that period may exceed several years. The "Priority Date" is the date that you file the FormI-130 immigrant petition on behalf of your brother or sister. If you have already filed an FormI-130 immigrant petition, you can find the "Priority Date" on the top, left-hand corner of the Form I-797 Receipt Notice or Approval Notice you received after your filed Form I-130 with USCIS.

If a Priority Date is "current", it means that there is a "visa slot" available for your brother or sister. U.S. immigration law limits the number of people who enter the U.S. as Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) on the basis of sponsorship by a U.S. citizen sibling. Specifically, the U.S. has 65,000 "visa slots" per year reserved for individuals who are immigrating as the brother or sister of a U.S. citizen. Each year, the number of approved immigrant petitions may exceed the number of "visa slots." Because of this, a backlog has occurred.

The Department of State processes visa applicants on a "first-come, first-serve" basis, which is determined by when the immigrant petition was filed. The Department of State allows visa applicants whose immigrant petitions were filed earliest to fill all the available slots. For this reason, it is important to file the immigrant petition as soon as possible.

3. Check the Current Priority Date and Visa Bulletin for Your Brothers or Sisters

The U.S. Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin that tells applicants when their Priority Date is current. Your brother or sister can check if their Priority Date is current by comparing the Priority Date that appears on the left-hand corner of the I-797 Approval Notice for the I-130 Immigrant Petition with the date that is published in the Department of State’s monthly Visa Bulletin. 

Your sibling can figure out what the current Priority Date is by looking at the row marked "4th" and the column that indicates his or her country of nationality. If the Priority Date on the I-797 Approval Notice is the same as or earlier than the date that appears in the cell reserved for applicants from your sibling’s country in the "4th" Family preference category, then a visa number is available and your sibling can proceed with the "Green Card" application.

How long it may take for your brother or sister’s Priority Date to become current depends in part on your brother or sister’s country of birth. If your brother or sister was born in China, India, Mexico or Philippines, he or she may have to wait longer than other applicants for a visa number to become available. This is because applicants from these four countries have historically had higher rates of immigration to the U.S. than applicants from any other country, and the U.S. Department of State does not permit family-based applicants from one country to immigrate at a higher rate than immigrants from any other country.

Your brother or sister will not be eligible to apply for a Green Card until his or her Priority Date is current. However, your sibling may be able to enter the U.S. on a "non-immigrant" visa while waiting for an immigrant visa number to become available. Please note that it will be difficult or impossible to obtain certain "non-immigrant" visas after an immigrant petition has been filed on behalf of your sibling. However, certain employment-based categories allow an applicant to enter the U.S. in a "non-immigrant" status even after an immigrant petition has been filed. 

4. The Long Waiting Time of Immigrant Visa

The U.S. citizen's can file for a sister or brother under the 4th family preference category, which is the lowest of all the preference categories, and it will take the longest period of time. Numbers of available visas in the preference categories are limited. You can check out the Visa Bulletin which comes out each month. In some cases, several years could pass between the time USCIS approves the immigrant visa petition and the State Department provides an immigrant visa number. 

This waiting cannot be speeded up. It it really a question of supply and demand. And as you can see from the Visa Bulletin waiting times, demand is a lot higher than the supply. It depends entirely on what country the person is from. Some countries have so many applicants for immigration lined up, so it can take 10 or 12 years. Other countries have fewer applicants and shorter waiting times.

 

 


 


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