United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) has instituted a new immigrant visa priority system that will affect how immigrant visas are processed. This new system is intended to help sort through a backlog of immigrant visa applications, which has grown to an extraordinary size due to COVID-19. It is also meant to help those who have been most negatively impacted by the immigration backlog, by ensuring their visa applications are processed more quickly.
What Are Immigrant Visas?
The term “immigrant visa” refers to any visa granted to someone who wishes to stay in the United States on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. This includes:
- Fiancees and spouses of United States citizens
- Orphans being adopted from other countries by United States citizens
- Family members of United States citizens
- Employer-sponsored immigrants looking to work in the United States
- Returning residents
- Winners of the diversity immigrant visa lottery
These visas allow people to stay legally within the United States while they remain valid, so long as recipients follow the conditions set out in their visas. For example, anyone who obtains a visa on the basis of their employment with a U.S. company must remain employed by that company, or risk being removed from the country. They may also act as the basis for seeking permanent residency or even full U.S. citizenship.
What Does This New System Do?
The new immigrant visa priority system will put certain types of immigrant visa applications ahead of others, giving them priority when it comes to evaluating their application. High priority applications will be scheduled more often for immigration interviews, and will be pushed ahead more quickly than lower priority applications.
The system sets out four tiers of applications, which are as follows:
- Tier One: Immediate family intercountry adoptions, cases where applicants will age out of certain categories, certain Special Immigrant visas (particularly those who worked for the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan).
- Tier Two: Visas for immediate relatives, fiancees, and returning residents.
- Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas and SE Special Immigrant visas for employees of the U.S. government abroad
- Tier Four: All other immigrant visa applications.
What Does This Mean For Immigrants?
For those who are applying to immigrate to the United States, this system may help people to more easily cut through the bureaucracy holding back their applications. In particular, this will be beneficial for people under major time constraints to immigrate to the United States as soon as possible. For others, though, it may mean a longer wait as their applications are pushed to the back of the line. If you are looking to immigrate to the U.S., you should speak to an immigration lawyer who may advise you on the impact this decision may have on you. The Drucker Law Firm has represented clients in immigration cases for more than 40 years. Our experienced team of lawyers will work with you to address all of your concerns and needs. If you are seeking legal immigration status or have an issue related to immigration, please give us a call at (718) 458-1489 or visit our contact page to schedule a consultation.