Family-based immigration is an important aspect of the United States immigration system, which allows citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor their close relatives. One of the family-based immigrant visa categories is the first preference category, which is for unmarried adult children (21 years or older) of U.S. citizens; often referred to as the F1 category.

The waiting time for a first preference immigrant visa can vary greatly depending on several factors, including the country of origin of the beneficiary, the demand for a visa category’s visas, and the number of applicants already waiting for a visa in that visa category. To determine the wait time for a first preference visa, the U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin, which lists the priority date “cut-off” for each family-based and employment-based preference category. The priority date is the date that the U.S. citizen  files the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative on behalf of the beneficiary.

The Visa Bulletin lists the priority date for each preference category, which is the date on which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) received the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (“I-130 Petition”) filed on behalf of the beneficiary.  The priority date determines an individual’s place in line for an immigrant visa and such immigrant visas are made available to individuals in the order in which their priority dates become current.

The estimated wait time is determined by the difference between the current priority date and the cut-off date listed on the Visa Bulletin. If the beneficiary’s priority date is before the cut-off date, they may be able to apply for an immigrant visa or adjust their status to a legal permanent resident.

It is very important to understand that these priority dates may not move forward for many months, they might move forward only 1 week a month, they might jump forward by weeks or even months, or they might even move backward (retrogress), depending on demand. Therefore, the priority date is only useful for a general idea of how long an applicant might wait for a visa to become available.

Based on the priority date of December 1, 2014 – All Chargeability Areas on Table A Final Action Date in the Visa Bulletin of March 2023, the estimated wait time for a visa to become available in the F1 category if a U.S. citizen files an I-130 Petition for an unmarried son or daughter today is approximately 12 years.  The wait time will be considerably longer for nationals of Mexico and the Philippines.

This estimate is based on the current demand for immigrant visas in this category, and the availability of such immigrant visas in the U.S. immigration system. It may seem that from the priority date being about 10 years difference that this would be the wait time, but it is important to keep in mind that the wait time can vary depending on several factors, including the number of visas that are made available each year, and the number of individuals who are waiting in line. The priority date does not move forward on a regular schedule.

If you have questions about U.S. visas, contact us at and speak with a U.S. immigration attorney in Ho Chi Minh City, Manila and Taipei.


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Copyright 2023. This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This article may be changed with or without notice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of Enterline and Partners only.