- Employment-Based Immigrants
- Family-Sponsored Immigrants
- Immediate Relative
- Immigrant visa numbers and waiting lists
- Inadmissible Conditions List
- Nonimmigrant Visas
- Prevailing Wage
- Temporary Visas
- Visa Bulletin and Priority Dates
- Visa Petition
Immigration Terms in Plain English
Under US immigration laws generally, a “child” is any unmarried child under 21 years of age. “Child” includes a stepchild if the marriage creating the step-relationship occurred before the child turned 18. “Child” includes adopted children only if the child was adopted before age 16 and the child has lived in the exclusive legal and physical custody of the adopting parent for at least two years. “Child” includes any illegitimate child if the petitioning parent is a woman. If the petitioning parent is a man, an illegitimate child is a “child” for immigration purposes only if the father acknowledged and participated in the child’s life before the child turned 16.
There are two types of preference immigrants: family-sponsored and employment-based. The employment-based immigrants are processed under the Employment-Based Preference categories, as follows
- Employment-Based First Preference: “Priority Workers” including Multinational Managers and Executives, Persons of Extraordinary Ability and Outstanding Researchers and Professors. Each year, approximately 32,604 immigrant visas are available under Employment-Based First Preference.
- Employment-Based Second Preference: Limited to Persons Holding a Master’s Degree or the equivalent, and Persons of Exceptional Ability. Each year, approximately 32,604 visas are available under Employment-Based Second Preference.
- Employment-Based First Preference: Limited to Persons with Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers: Each year, approximately 32,604 visas are available under Employment-Based Second Preference. Not more than 10,000 visas may go to “Other Workers”.
- Schedule A Workers: Limited to Registered Nurses and Physical Therapists. Up to 50,000 visas are available to Schedule A workers.
- Employment-Based Fourth Preference: Certain Special Immigrants, including former employees of the US government and Religious Workers: Each year, approximately 9,940 visas are available under Employment-Based Fourth Preference.
- Employment-Based Fifth Preference: Immigrant Investors or ‘Alien Entrepreneurs.’ Employment Creation: Each year, approximately 9,940 visas are available under Employment-Based Fourth Preference, 3,000 of which are reserved for investors in Rural Areas or High Unemployment Areas, and 3,000 are set aside for investors in designated Regional Centers.
There are two types of preference immigrants: family-sponsored and employment-based. The family sponsored immigrants are processed under the Family-Sponsored Preference categories, as follows
- Family-Sponsored First Preference: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens Each year, approximately 23,400 immigrant visas are available under Family-Sponsored First Preference.
- Family-Sponsored Second Preference: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: Each year, approximately 114,200 immigrant visas are available under Family-Sponsored Second Preference. There are two categories of Family-Sponsored Second Preference:
- F2A: Spouses and Children: 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;
- F2B: Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older): 23% of the overall second preference limitation.
- Family-Sponsored Third Preference: Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens. Each year, approximately 23,400 immigrant visas are available under Family-Sponsored Third Preference.
- Family-Sponsored Fourth Preference: Fourth: Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens. Each year, approximately 65,000 immigrant visas are available under Family-Sponsored Fourth Preference.
Under US immigration laws, an “Immediate Relative” is a parent, spouse or child of a United States citizen. There is no annual or per country quota or limit on the number of immediate relatives who may immigrate to the US. A parent, spouse, or child of a permanent resident is not an immediate relative. A permanent resident may file an immigrant petition for a spouse (F2A quota) or a child (F2A quota if the child is unmarried and under 21) or a son or daughter (F2B quota for unmarried child over 21). A permanent resident may not file an immigrant petition for a parent.
Immigrant visa numbers and waiting lists
There are two types of immigrants who get permanent residence through visa petitions: immediate relatives and preference immigrants. The number of immediate relative immigrants is unlimited. The number of preference immigrants allowed into the US in any given year is limited. For immigration purposes the visa “year” starts on October 1 and ends on September 30. The annual family-sponsored preference limit is approximately 226,000. The worldwide level for annual employment-based preference immigrants is at least 140,000. The per-country limit for preference immigrants is set at 25,620. When more than 25,620 future immigrants from one country apply to enter the US in any given year, a waiting list develops. The waiting list is published monthly, called the Visa Bulletin.
Inadmissible Conditions List
This list is a summary of the grounds of exclusion, or “inadmissibility” for US visas. If you have any questions about how this list might apply to you or any member of your immediate family who will be applying for a visa with you, please click here for more information.
There are two main visa types: Permanent Visas (also known as immigrant visas) and Temporary Visas. US law presumes that all foreigners intend to immigrate to the US. Many Temporary Visas are also Nonimmigrant Visas.
If one applies for a Temporary Visa that is also a Nonimmigrant Visa, the visa applicant must convince the US official that he or she does not intend to immigrate to the US. The Temporary Visas that carry the nonimmigrant intent restriction are B, C, D, E-3, F, H-1B1, H-2, H-3, I, J, M, Q, R, & TN. The applicant must show that his or her ties are stronger to the home country than to the US. Also, it is important to show that one’s family, employment, and social ties are stronger to the home country than to the US. A history of filing an application for permanent residence or overstaying a visa or working in the US without a work permit indicates immigrant intent.
If the temporary visa allows immigrant intent, whether the visa applicant intends to immigrate is irrelevant. The Temporary Visas that do not carry the nonimmigrant intent restriction are A, E-1, E-2, F, G, H-1B, K, L, O & P. Applicants for these types of visas are generally not required to document nonimmigrant intent.
The petitioner is the person, company or organization that is sponsoring a beneficiary to get a visa for the US.
Payment of the prevailing wage is required for those sponsored for permanent residence through the labor certification process, and certain temporary visa holders (B-1 household employees, H-1B & H-2). The prevailing wage rate is defined as the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in the requested occupation in the area of intended employment. This wage rate is usually obtained by contacting the State Workforce Agency (SWA) having jurisdiction over the geographic are of intended employment or from other legitimate sources of information, such as the Online Wage Library.
Under US laws, the only type of legal marriage is a marriage between a single man and a single woman that is contracted in accordance with the laws where the marriage occurred. A same sex marriage is not recognized under US law even if it was legally contracted in the place of marriage, since it is not a marriage between a single man and a single woman. A polygamous marriage is not recognized under US law, but the first wife of the polygamous husband is recognized as the spouse for immigration purposes.
Under US immigration rules a visa can be either temporary or permanent.
Visa Validity Dates. A visa is a stamp placed in the passport by an American Consulate or Embassy outside the US. It is no longer possible to obtain a visa by mail. Temporary visas show an expiration date and the number of entries allowed with that visa. A visa is like a key to open the “door” into the US. It does not guarantee entry and it does not indicate the period of stay allowed once you enter the “door” at the port of entry. The visa stamp indicates the number of entries allowed during the validity period. Most temporary visas are issued for a fee of $100 and provide the maximum legal validity period and multiple entries. Sometimes a temporary visa will be issued for a shorter validity period, fewer entries, and for a fee greater than $100.
The “authorized period of stay” is determined by the US immigration inspector at the port of entry. The authorized period of stay is marked on an I-94 card that is placed inside the passport by the immigration officer.
The “authorized period of stay” for most employment based temporary visas and visitor visas is a specific date marked on the I-94 card. Some temporary visa holders – such as students, media workers, and diplomats – are admitted into the US without a specific expiration date. The I-94 of these visa holders is marked “D/S” which stands for “duration of status.” This means that as long as the visa holder is abiding by the terms of the visa, he or she may remain in the US indefinitely.
Temporary visas all have an expiration date.
Visa Bulletin and Priority Dates
When more than 25,620 people from one country seek to be Preference Immigrants to the US in any given month, a waiting list develops for people born in that country. When the worldwide quota for a certain preference category may be exceeded in any given month, a waiting list develops for that preference category, regardless of country of birth. The waiting list, published monthly, is called the Visa Bulletin, available at http://travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html The Visa Bulletin lists Priority Dates of Preference Immigrant cases that are eligible to receive immigrant visas during the month the Visa Bulletin is published.
The Priority Date for a Family-sponsored immigrant is set by the date the Visa Petition was filed for the Beneficiary. The Priority Date for an Employment-based immigrant is set by the earlier of either (1) the date a Labor Certification was filed for the Beneficiary or (2) the date a Visa Petition was filed for the Beneficiary. If the Visa Bulletin shows a Priority Date as “C” the quota is “current”, meaning that all immigrant, regardless of Priority Date may proceed with the immigrant visa application. If the Priority Date is indicated as “U” the quota is “unavailable”, meaning that no immigrants, regardless of Priority Date, may proceed with the immigrant visa application. If the Priority Date is indicated with a date, this means that any immigrant with any Priority Date earlier than the date posted may proceed with the immigrant visa application.
For family-sponsored immigrants, the visa petition is Form I-130. For employment-based immigrants, the visa petition is Form I-140, Form I-360, or Form I-526. Form I-140 is for Employment-Based First Preference, Employment-Based Second Preference, Employment-Based Third Preference, and Schedule A Workers. Form I-360 is for Employment-Based Fourth Preference. Form I-526 is for Employment-Based Fifth Preference.