When applying for people who are not the parents, spouses, or unmarried minor children of United States Citizens, the term "preference category" is bound to come up. This refers to the quota system by which USCIS apportions visas. This being said, it's possible to have an APPROVED petition, and still have to wait for years before the green card application can begin.
The categories are divided as follows.
First : Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens
Second : Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents
- A. Spouses and Children
- B. Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older)
Third : Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens
Fourth : Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens
Looking at the preference categories from the visa bulletin for April, 2007 (see below), we see that USCIS is working on applications received on or prior to the dates listed.
For example, if the petition you filed is for a married (Brazilian) son of a U.S. Citizen, and it was filed on April 25, 2001 -- prior to the 245i date -- look at the current visa bulletin to see what date USCIS is working on. First, identify the category. In this case, that would be third preference. Next, as we're not talking about a Mexican, Indian, Philippine or Chinese person, we see that the date USCIS is working on is March 22, 1999. Assuming that cases continue to be processed at a constant rate, there should be a 2 year wait for the next phase of the process.
If, say, a U.S. Citizen filed for his Mexican brother on June 1, 1994, then that person would be in the fourth preference category -- and as the priority date for Mexicans in that category is June 8, 1994, the beneficiary could be eligible for consular processing if outside the U.S., or to adjust status, if here.
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