As we all know, if you are the beneficiary of a preference category family-based immigrant petition, the wait can be long. It can be very long. And life goes on. However, no one wants to lose their place in line for eventual immigration to the United States and understanding the Visa Bulletin is key to maintaining your place in line. First, knowing what categories are available is important.
Note, however, those spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of U.S. citizens are considered Immediate Relatives and are not subject to wait for an available visa. This category is numerically unlimited.
The numerically limited categories or the preference categories for the family-based petitions are:
FB1—Unmarried children of U.S. citizens over the age of 21
FB2A—Spouses and unmarried children of legal permanent residents
FB2B—Unmarried children over the age of 21 of legal permanent residents
FB3—Married children of U.S. citizens
FB4—Siblings of U.S. citizens
The day that USCIS receives a visa petition on your behalf becomes your Priority Date and you must qualify for the category for which you are petitioned on that day. For example, if your sister will naturalize on April 1, 2019 but files a petition for you on March 31, 2019, you do not qualify even though by the time a visa is available to you, your sister will be a U.S. citizen. This is a frequent mistake.
You cannot change your country of chargeability. The Visa Bulletin lists visa availability by category as well as by country with oversubscribed countries (Mexico, China-mainland, Philippines, and India) having separate dates from all other countries, which are listed under All Chargeability. You are chargeable to the country in which you are born. If you are born in Mexico but then later immigrate to Canada and become a Canadian citizen, you are still chargeable to and subject to the visa numbers for Mexico.
There is an exception to this rule called cross chargeability. See our blog, “Can I Get a Visa Faster if My Spouse is a Different Nationality than Me?”
You can change your preference category as long as you always remain eligible for a category and never become ineligible for a category. Let us see how this works.
Example 1: Jane, a legal permanent resident, files for her daughter, Lucy, who is unmarried and 18 years old in 2010. Lucy is F2A. A few years pass by and Lucy is now 25 years old and there is still no visa available. She is now F2B and it is 2015. Jane becomes a U.S. citizen in 2016. A year later, in 2017, Lucy marries. Lucy is now FB3, the married child of a U.S. citizen. Her priority date remains the same, but her category has changed.
Example 2: Same as Example 1 but this time, Lucy marries in 2015. Lucy has now lost her place in line. Even if Jane naturalizes in 2016, Lucy cannot get her place in line back because when she married and her mother was still a legal permanent resident, she “fell off” the bulletin because there is no visa category for married children of any age of legal permanent residents.
Example 3: Same as Example 1. However, Lucy’s marriage does not last, and she divorces in 2019. Lucy keeps her place in line and now she is FB1, the unmarried child over the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen. If Lucy married in 2020, she would then be FB3, the married child of a U.S. citizen. Because Lucy always remains eligible for a preference category, she keeps her priority date and her place in line until a visa is available!
Contact a DuPage County Immigration Attorney
The U.S. immigration process can be long and complicated. Understanding what categories apply to your circumstances is essential to successful immigration to the United States. If you or your loved one has questions or concerns about the legal steps, you need to speak to an experienced immigration attorney. Ana M. Mencini & Associates, P.C. have handled many types of immigration cases to favorable outcomes. We can assist you in completing all of the necessary legal forms. Call our knowledgeable Itasca visa lawyers at 630-875-1700 to schedule your consultation.