Visa Numbers

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This explains visa number usage, spillover of visa numbers into other preference categories, and the visa number backlog.

Preference Categories

The primary reasons for entering the immigration process in the U.S. are family and employment-based. To manage this process, family and employment-based immigration is broken into preference categories. Congress sets limits on how many individuals may immigrate to the U.S. each year (i.e. visa numbers) and also sets limits on how many individuals may immigrate within each preference category.

Section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets an annual minimum family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000. The worldwide level for annual employment-based preference immigrants is at least 140,000.

Per-Country Limit

Section 202 of the INA prescribes that the per-country limit for preference immigrants is set at 7% of the total annual family-sponsored and employment-based preference limits, i.e., 25,620. The dependent area limit is set at 2%, or 7,320.

The demand for visas from nationals of India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines is greater than the per-country limit and that is why these countries are listed separately in the Visa Bulletin. The Department of State (DOS) is responsible for reviewing visa number usage and determining how many numbers are currently available. You can check the monthly Visa Bulletin for more detailed information. The monthly Visa Bulletin allows beneficiaries to know where they stand in the immigration queue.

"Spillover"

The chart below shows the visa numbers that are available for each category, as well as how unused visa numbers "spillover" into other preference categories. Because we strive to use the maximum number of visas available each year, there generally aren't any unused visa numbers available to spillover.

Family-Based (FB) Categories Visa Number Limits
Immediate Relatives Not subject to direct numerical limitations.
1st Preference (Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens) 23,400, plus any remaining FB visa numbers
2A Preference (Spouses and children of permanent residents) 87,934, plus a portion of any remaining visa numbers from the FB 1st  
2B Preference (Unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents) 26,266, plus a portion of any remaining visa numbers from the FB 1st preference category, and any unused F2A numbers
3rd Preference (Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens) 23,400, plus any remaining visa numbers from the FB 1st and 2nd preference categories
4th Preference (Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens) 65,000, plus any remaining visa numbers from the FB 1st, 2nd, and 3rd preference categories
Employment-Based (EB) Categories Visa Number Limits
1st Preference (Aliens of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and certain multinational executives and managers) 28.6% of the world-wide employment limit, plus any remaining visa numbers from the EB 4th and 5th preference category
2nd Preference (Members of the professions holding an advanced degree and national interest waivers) 28.6% of the world-wide employment limit, plus any remaining visa numbers from the EB 1st preference category
3rd Preference (Skilled workers and professionals) 28.6% of the world-wide employment limit, plus any remaining visa numbers from the EB 1st and 2nd preference categories
3rd Preference (Other workers) No more than 10,000
4th Preference (Certain special immigrants) 7.1% of the world-wide employment limit
5th Preference (Employment Creation) 7.1% of the world-wide employment limit

We hope this helps our readers better understand how the visa number process works and welcome your comments.

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