The Growing Waiting List for Immigrant Visa Applicants

By Katherine at Legal Language
Posted on 04/23/2010
In Immigration, News



Applicants for US immigrant visas almost always obtain their visas one of two ways: sponsorship through a family member or sponsorship through an employer.

However, the sheer number of immigrant visa applicants in both of these categories every year means there is always a waiting list. And depending on the applicant’s relationship to the US citizen sponsor or the worker’s skill level, he or she can remain on the immigrant visa waiting list for many years.

Categories for Immigrant Visa Applicants

In a family-based immigration case, when relatives file for an immigrant visa, they must wait until they are approved. They are then placed in a category based on their relation to their family member sponsors.

The applicants must then wait for an immigrant visa number to become available, at which time they can proceed with their immigration cases. Parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 do not have to wait for an immigrant visa number, but the other applicants are divided according to the following preferences:

  • First Preference: Unmarried children of US citizens over the age of 21.
  • Second Preference: Spouses of lawful permanent residents, their unmarried children (under 21) as well as the unmarried children of lawful permanent residents.
  • Third Preference: Married children of US citizens.
  • Fourth Preference: Siblings of adult US citizens.

Applicants seeking immigrant visas through employment are divided into similar categories.

The lower the “preference,” the longer an applicant will likely be on the waiting list. Many immigrant visa applicants end up waiting for an immigrant visa number for many years!

Immigrant Visa Applicants Waiting List

The number of family-sponsored immigrant visa applicants is listed below. The number of immigrant visa applicants in the six countries listed individually make up just over two-thirds of the total number of family-sponsored applicants for the 2010 fiscal year.

Under the rules of the Immigration and Nationality Act, there is a per-country limit. This limit only allows a certain number of people from a particular country to immigrate to the US every year. The 2010 per-country limit is set at approximately 15,820.

Family-Based Immigrant Waiting List by Country

Country Total Number of Immigrants
Mexico 1,174,033
Philippines 435,274
Vietnam 184,516
China 183,910
India 170,589
Dominican Republic 115,478
All Other Countries 1,105,655
Worldwide Total 3,369,455



The number of employment-based immigrant visa applicants is listed below. The number of immigrant visa applicants in the five countries listed individually make up 75 percent of the total number of employment-based applicants in 2010.

There is also a per-country limit that applies to employment-based immigrant visa applicants. The 2010 per-country limit is set at approximately 10,440.

Employment-Based Immigrant Waiting List by Country

Country Total Number of Immigrants
Philippines 47,420
India 24,365
China 13,649
South Korea 7,725
Mexico 4,728
All Other Countries 32,622
Worldwide Total 130,509

One Response to “The Growing Waiting List for Immigrant Visa Applicants”

  1. Be Thankful | You Sleep When You Die Says:

    […] waiting list of people who want to get into this country and live here. That list is now well over three and a half million people long. And guess what? That’s just the people who want to get in legally. We’ve got so many […]

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