If you are an immediate relative of a US citizen, a visa is always available. If you are in a family or employment based preference classification, visa availability is generally determined by:
- the priority date
- the preference category you are immigrating under
- the country the visa will be charged to (usually your country of citizenship)
The Department of State is the government agency and authority that has control over visa numbers. The annual limits for are decided by Congress and can be referenced in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Initially, a priority date will be assigned to you based on your immigrant petition filing date (the date that the petition was originally filed with USCIS). In certain employment-based cases, it is the date the application for a labor certification was accepted by the Department of Labor. Your priority date puts you in line for an immigrant visa.
The priority date, along with your country of nationality and preference category will determine how long you are required to wait for a visa to be immediately available. When the USCIS is ready to approve an applicant for permanent residency in a visa category that has limited numbers, they must first request a visa number from the Department of State.
When a visa is available, you are permitted to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (if you are in the United States) or apply for an immigrant visa outside the United States (consular processing). If you are going through consular processing, USCIS will forward your approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center who will then contact you when your priority date is about to become current. They will notify you on what your next steps are and when you may apply for an immigrant visa in your home country.
Admissibility to the United States on a visa:
All immigrant visa applicants or those applying for adjustment of status have to prove to the satisfaction of immigration or consular officials that they are admissible (eligible for admission) to the United States.
There are many grounds of inadmissibility that could potentially bar or cause someone to be ineligible to become a permanent resident (green card holder). Examples are health-related, criminal, security-related, and other grounds.
In some situations, if you are found inadmissible to the United States you can file a waiver on Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility, (the form required for most immigrants) or I-602, Application By Refugee For Waiver of Grounds of Excludability (the form is required for refugees and asylees) to excuse your inadmissibility.
The grounds of inadmissibility are determined by the particular classification through which you are immigrating. In case you are found inadmissible to the United States, your adjustment of status application or immigrant visa application will be denied outrightly. Congress has decided upon the grounds of inadmissibility and they may be found in Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
After the application package along with the supporting documents have been received and subsequently interviews conducted (if necessary), security checks completed, and other eligibility requirements reviewed, your application/petition will be ready for a decision by USCIS.