Visa Wait Times: Who’s Waiting and For How Long?

Last Updated on January 11, 2024

Visa wait times: Not all are created equal. And when it comes to relocating to the U.S., nationals of countries with a high volume of immigrants must wait a great deal longer than others.

Immigrant visas are designated for individuals who wish to relocate permanently to the U.S., and depending on your personal and professional circumstances, they can be very difficult to obtain.

Each year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives approximately six million applications for a green card from foreign citizens  awaiting the opportunity to move permanently to the U.S. In August 2023, the employment-based green card backlog reached nearly two million, which was a new record. However, USCIS is working to reduce backlog times with the goal of reducing employment-based green card churn.


U.S. Visa Wait Times for Foreign Workers

Employment-based immigrant visa petitions will commonly take less time than family-based visas for a number of reasons, including:

  • There are far fewer employment-based applications due to low government caps.
  • The work-based visa application process requires the applicant and his or her employer to provide an exceptionally detailed amount of information before proceeding.

The U.S. has five major types of employment-based green cards: EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, EB-4 and EB-5. Their wait times depend on the applicant’s country of origin and priority level. Individuals from India or China may wait years before receiving a green card, while people from other countries could have a shorter wait time. Check out our policy updates blog for information on monthly priority dates via the Visa Bulletin.

U.S. Visa Wait Times for Family Members

Like employment-based visas, family visas or green card petitions are segmented into different priority levels. Applicants with U.S. citizen family petitioners will have priority over those with family members who only have green cards.

The different types of family-sponsored visa categories are:

  • F-1: Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
  • F-2: Spouses and children of Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs)
  • F-2A: Spouses and children of LPRs
  • F-2B: Unmarried adult children of LPRs
  • F-3: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
  • F-4: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens

Visa Wait Times by Country of Origin

U.S. immigration policy limits the yearly amount of green cards granted to citizens of a specific country, which means that high-volume immigration countries like India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines experience the longest U.S. visa wait times.

If you’d like to learn more about the different visa options available and the right visa for your needs, please reach out to us for more information!

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Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-retained attorney or another qualified professional.