How Long Will You Have to Wait to Get Your Visa Approved?
If you need a U.S. visa, you may be wondering about the process and time it will take for approval. Wait times can vary, so it is a good idea to apply as soon as possible. Contact your local U.S. embassy or consulate, follow their instructions closely, stay in touch, and be patient. If you are seeking an immigrant visa for the United States in order to live and work permanently in the country, the wait can be long. More than four million foreigners are currently waiting for the opportunity to move to the United States.
If you are applying for a temporary nonimmigrant visa, the wait generally isn’t long. This type of visa allows you to travel to a U.S. port of entry and request admission from a Department of Homeland Security official. Tourist, student, or work visas, for trips to visit the U.S. for a short period of time, are usually processed in a few weeks or months.
Visa Waiver Countries
If you’re citizen of a country that is part of the visa waiver program, you don’t need a visa if you are traveling for business or tourism for up to 90 days. The visa waiver program currently includes 38 countries, but if you have traveled to, or are also a national of, North Korea, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Iran, or Iraq you may not eligible for a visa waiver. There are exceptions for diplomatic or military service.
Immigrant visas are granted for those who intend to live or work in the U.S. permanently. This visa classification includes several categories, including immediate family member, employer-sponsored, and special immigrants. United States laws limit the number of visas allowed in some categories every year. So, in addition to the time you will wait for the U.S. to accept and process your application, you may also need to wait for a limited slot to become available.
Immediate Family Member
If you are the spouse, parent, or child under 21 years old of a U.S. citizen living in the United States, visas are generally immediately available, with no limits. However, the processing wait time, including interviews, background checks, and fingerprinting, can be 10 months or longer to get a visa and another eight months to two years to get a green card. The wait for a spouse who is a permanent U.S. resident, rather than a citizen, can be up to a year longer than that.
If you are a sibling, child over 21, or a married child under 21 of a U.S. citizen, the wait times are much longer, ranging anywhere from one to 10 years. Visas are limited each year and there is a long wait in each category from most countries.
Employee-sponsored immigrant visas are placed into several categories based on their country of origin and priority level. Employment-based preference visas are limited to 140,000 per year, although exceptions may apply. Those who hold the most in-demand skills, those with advanced degrees, and those with exceptional abilities are given the highest priority. Employees from countries like China, Mexico, and India may wait years for an employee-sponsored visa, while those from Europe may have little wait at all. The U.S. Department of State publishes a monthly visa bulletin with the latest wait times.
The EB-4 visa was intended as an employment-based visa for non-profit religious workers, but the visa now covers a wide range of people. This can include Iraqi nationals who have helped the U.S., members of the U.S. armed forces, physicians, translators from Iraq and Afghanistan, some retired employees of NATO, and others. Wait times for these visas can vary widely, from a few weeks to years.
The visa process can be frustrating, long, and complicated. Moreover, immigration policy in the U.S. is constantly changing. It may be good idea to consult an attorney before beginning the process to ensure that you can navigate the system as efficiently as possible.