A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

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Friday, May 7, 2021

Overseas Immigrant Visa Processing - Family Cases Prioritized Over Employment Cases

As embassies and consulates start to tackle the backlog of immigrant visa cases, the Department of State (DOS) has indicated that certain categories of visas be prioritized. 

The visas have been grouped into four tiers based on priority, with family reunion in mind. They are to be processed in this order, starting with Tier One:

  • Tier One: Immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out cases (when a beneficiary child will soon reach 21 years of age), and SQ and SI visas for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government
  • Tier Two: Immediate relative visas (spouse, parents or unmarried children under 21 of a U.S. Citizen), K-1 fiancĂ©(e) visas; and returning resident visas
  • Tier Three: Family preference visas (siblings of USC, spouse, parent, or child of green card holder), SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad
  • Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference (I-140 petition) and diversity visas
While immediate relatives and fiancĂ©s of U.S. Citizens will be prioritized, the DOS has also directed consulates to process and schedule appointments for visas in tiers Three and Four each month. 

The department also acknowledged that lower tier visa categories and diversity visas will likely not reach the statutory ceiling for FY 2021. Anyone in those categories will have to wait longer for the prioritized Tier One and Two backlogs to start clearing before normal processing times can resume. 

Applicants can get a better idea of the local consulate/embassy's processing capacity by looking at news and announcements on the consulate website. Local factors such as the COVID situation and any government restrictions will affect processing. 

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