Visa Preference Categories: Understanding the U.S. Immigration System

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Preference Categories for Families and Employees

The United States immigration system has made various visa preference categories available, each signifying the priority given to applicants during issuance. These visa category categories are crucial to comprehend, as they largely dictate the waiting period for potential immigrants.

Family-based immigrant visas come in two types: immediate relative immigrant visas and family preference immigrant visas. 

Immediate relatives are family members that include spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21 of US citizens. These visas are typically not subject to annual limits.

Family preference visas are allocated for more distant familial relationships with US citizens and some specified family relationships with lawful permanent residents or LPRs. There are numerical limitations annually, leading to longer waiting periods, as detailed in the Visa Bulletin.

Employment-based preferences are also available for potential employees and US employers.

At Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, we pride ourselves on guiding our clients through these complex categories with precision and care. We direct them through the immigration process so they understand how these preference categories may affect their family-based petitions. Our commitment to keeping families united motivates us, reflecting our passion and dedication in every case we undertake.

Overview of Categories

The landscape of US immigration law is complex, particularly when it comes to visa preference categories. These categories dictate the priority order for granting visas by visa applicant, which is crucial for both family-based and employment-based petitions.

For family-based immigration, the US government has established Family Preference Immigrant categories. The following are the family preference categories:

  • First Preference (F1): This is for unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens and their minor children.

  • Second Preference (F2): This is divided into two subsections:

    • (F2A): For spouses and minor children of permanent residents

    • (F2B): For unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years or older, of permanent residents

  • Third Preference (F3): This is for married sons and daughters of American citizens, along with their spouses and minor children.

  • Fourth Preference (F4): This is for siblings of US citizens, where the citizen must be over the age of 21.

In addition to family-based categories, there are also Employment-Based Preference Immigrant categories:

  1. First Preference (EB-1): Individuals with extraordinary abilities, outstanding researchers and professors, and multinational executives fall under this category.
  2. Second Preference (EB-2): This is for professionals holding advanced degrees or persons with exceptional ability.
  3. Third Preference (EB-3): Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers are in this category.
  4. Fourth Preference (EB-4): This applies to special immigrants, including various religious workers and employees of US foreign service posts.
  5. Fifth Preference (EB-5): Immigrant investors creating new commercial enterprises fall under this category.

To determine eligibility and navigate the intricacies of classifications, such as family-based preference categories, speak with a seasoned immigration lawyer from Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law. Rest assured, our team approaches every case with a tailored strategy designed to unite families and meet your immigration goals.

The Application Process

Accuracy and completeness in applications for immigrant visas are of utmost importance to increase the chance of success. Below is an overview of the steps in the application process.

  1. Determining Eligibility: The initial step is to determine your eligibility for a visa, including analyzing your relationship with the petitioning family member.
  2. Filing the Application: For family reference categories, those already in the US should file their Form I-485 for their status to be adjusted to a lawful permanent resident. Concurrently, Form I-130 or Petition for Alien Relative, needs to be filed by the petitioning US citizen or permanent resident for a relative for a US visa application.

    In employment-based cases, the prospective employer must obtain a labor certification approval from the US Department of Labor. Once the employer gets the labor certification approval, the employer will then file a Form I-140, or the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. The filing fee must also be paid at the USCIS.

  3. Visa Number & Priority Date: Once the petition is approved, the National Visa Center (NVC) will assign a visa number and priority date. We ensure clients are informed about their status and next steps.
  4. Visa Application: As soon as your priority date becomes current, you can apply for an immigrant visa. You submit a visa application, attend the interview, and go through background checks and medical exams. 
  5. Consular Processing: If outside the US, we assist our clients through consular processing, coordinating with the local US consulate to schedule interviews and complete processing.

It is crucial to understand that you can only be approved if your case has no grounds for admissibility. These grounds for admissibility include public charge, health-related grounds, criminal-related grounds, and security-related grounds.

At Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, we recognize each client has a unique background that requires a personalized strategy. We are adept at navigating common roadblocks like inadmissibility issues and seeking appropriate waivers where applicable. 

Why Choose Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law

At Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, we bring a staunch dedication to serving those seeking to navigate the intricate landscape of US immigration laws. Our reputation in Dallas, Texas, is built on a firm foundation of providing professional services to immigrants, including those aspiring to become permanent residents through various immigrant visas.

We do not just process cases; we handle them with the utmost care and precision, ensuring that each application reflects the client’s unique circumstances and qualifications.

Our Experience

  • Accomplished in securing family-based petitions, thus aiding families in their quest for reunion and a brighter future in the US.

  • Proficient in handling cases related to asylum advocating for those in need of protection.

  • Deep understanding of complex areas such as VAWA, U-visas, and immigration work permits, which require an acute understanding of federal immigration policies.

Personalized Legal Assistance

  • Customized Service: We offer individual analysis and strategy planning for each case to meet your specific needs.

  • Guidance: We illuminate the path through the immigration process, providing clarity and support at every step.

Understanding immigrant visa preference categories is pivotal for successful immigration outcomes, and here at Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, we are equipped to offer this crucial insight and service. If you’re seeking assistance that is as compassionate as it is competent, our doors are open to you. Contact us to know more about green card categories and family-based petitions.