What are the family preference system visa quotas?

Having already gone through the immigration process, you know firsthand just how complex it can be. Yet now that you are settled in Yuma, bringing the rest of your family here to join you may be somewhat easier than the process you were made to go through. That is because one of the primary goals of U.S. immigration policy is reuniting families. An unlimited number of visas are made available for immediate family members such spouses, unmarried minor children and parents of U.S. citizens. After that, a certain number of visas is allotted through the family preference system annually. The question, then, is how many are available and how are they distributed? 

The U.S. Congress has set the number of annual new family preference visas at 480,000. However, the actual number of available visas is determined by subtracting the number of immediate family visas issued in the prior year from that 480,000 total. The number of unused employment preference visas from the previous is then added to that number to come up with the final available amount. By law, the number cannot be lower than 226,000. 

A preference order has been established to decide which immigrants applying for entry through the family preference system will get visas (with each order category getting its own limits). The number of available visas in each category is taken from the lowest family preference visa quota of 226,000. Per the Congressional Research Service, the order categories (and the number of visas available) are broken down as follows: 

  • 1 - Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens (23,400)
  • 2 - Spouses, minor children and unmarried adult children of lawful permanent residents (114,200)
  • 3 - Married adult children of U.S. citizens (23,400)
  • 4 - Siblings of U.S. citizens (65,000)

Any unused visas in any of the preference categories are distributed to designated other categories. 



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