Immigrant visas allow individuals of foreign nations to come to the United States to live and work permanently in the United States. A person who came on immigrant visa is generally called Permanent Resident. Usually foreign individuals may be able to come to the United States as Permanent Residents through family based immigration or employment based immigration or through some other special immigration programs such as diversity visa lottery, Asylum, VAWA etc.
Immigration and Nationality Act sets limitations on number of visas can be allotted for foreign individuals for each year. Certain individuals who qualify as “immediate relatives” of the US citizens are exempt from this numerical limitation. All others who do not qualify as “immediate relatives” of US citizen are subject to numerical limitation set in the statute.
Statute set limits for family based immigrants to 226,000 for each fiscal year other than immediate relatives of US Citizens, and for employment based immigrants to 140,000 for each fiscal. Any unused family based immigrant visas nay be used for qualified and eligible employment based applicants. Visa prorate provisions apply to the allocation of visas for a foreign nation or dependent area when visa demand exceeds the per-country limit. Per-country limit for preference immigrants is set at 7% of the total annual family-sponsored and employment-based preference limits, i.e., 25,620. The dependent area limit is set at 2%, or 7,320.
Immigrant visas are allocated to the foreign individuals based on their priority date. Priority date is the cut-off date set for the allocation of visas to foreign individuals based on their categories, and by their country. Usually priority date for each alien is set based in the order of the date the immigrant visa petition filed for family based preferences and some employment based preferences that do not require labor certification from the Dept. of Labor; or the date the labor certification is filed with the appropriate department of labor office. This priority date of visa petition becomes very crucial to determine whether one will be allotted visa are not when visa numbers are unavailable due to retrogression or due to per-country limitations. The earlier priority date of the petition, the earlier immigrant visa will be allocated to alien, if all requirements are met.
Spouse and children of preferenced immigrants are entitled to the same status, and same order of consideration if accompanying or following to join the principal alien. This provision is available only to those spouses and children of aliens, who did not gain their lawful permanent residence as immediate relatives of a US citizen (alien must have attained lawful permanent residence through diversity visa, or through employment-based visa, or through immigrant petition filed US Citizen sibling; or through Immigrant petition filed by the US parents when alien is already married. If spouse and children (Unmarried and under the of 21 years) of a principal immigrant alien qualifies for follow to join benefits, no separate immigrant petition is required to be filed on their behalf.