According to a recent report released by the U.S. Department of State, the number of family-based applicants on the waiting list for immigrant visa numbers as of November 2009 was 3,369,455 while the number of employment-based applicants was 130,509.
These figures include the principal applicants or petition beneficiaries as well as their spouses and children entitled to derivative status. They do not include immediate relatives (spouse, minor unmarried children and parents of U.S. citizens) who are exempted from the numerical limitation.
Not included in the figures are applicants for adjustment of status. They also do not include those who failed to respond within a year to the visa application letter of the National Visa Center notifying them of the availability of visa numbers within a reasonable time. These cases are considered inactive.
The above figures indicate that the wait for obtaining permanent resident status is going to be long in most of the visa preferences. In some categories, the wait for applicants form the Philippines, India, China and Mexico will be decades.
U.S. immigration laws set an annual worldwide limit as well as a per county limit of immigrant visas issued. There is also a limit on each preference category. During the fiscal year 2010 which runs from October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010, visas issued are no more than 226,000 in the family-sponsored preferences and approximately 150,000 in the employment-based preferences. The per country limit is approximately 26,260.
The top five countries with the highest number of waiting list registrants are as follows: Mexico – 1,178,761; Philippines – 482,694; China – 197,559; India – 194,954; and Vietnam – 184,692
The number of registrants under the family-based preferences (F) are broken down as follows: F-1 (unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens) – 245,516; F2A (spouses and children of permanent residents) -324,864; F2B (adult sons and daughters of permanent residents) – 517,898; F3 (married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens) -553,280; and F4 (brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens) 1,727,897.
The numbers of registrants under the employment-based preferences (EB) are: EB1 (priority workers) – 3,601; EB2 (advanced degree professionals/persons of exceptional ability) – 6,296; EB3 (skilled workers) – 103, 448; EB3 (other workers) 16,311; EB4 (special immigrants) 529 and EB5 (employment creation) – 325.
Of the F1 registrants, Mexico ranks first with 63,628 followed by the Philippines with 35,789. The numbers may increase because of the automatic conversion of pending F2B into F1 upon the naturalization of the petitioner. The automatic conversion may be avoided by availing of opt-out provision under the Child Status Protection Act. Many Filipinos have taken advantage of this law by opting to remain under F-2B in order to avoid the longer wait under F1.
Mexico also ranks first in the F2A, F2B and F4 while the Philippines ranks first in the F-3 preference.
In the employment-based categories, the Philippines ranks first with 47,470 followed by India – 24,365; China – 13,649; South Korea – 7,725 and Mexico – 4,728. As mentioned above, these figures do not include the number of adjustment of status applicants. The report notes that 90% of all employment-based preference immigrants are currently being processed as adjustment of status cases at the USCIS offices.