Immigrant Visa Prioritization at U.S. Consular Posts

With the ongoing pandemic, there have been severe backlogs in immigrant visa processing at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide. The operation capacity at each post varies based on local conditions and safety precautions. The overwhelming majority of posts still have limited capacity to process immigrant visas. The U.S. Department of State (DOS), which has jurisdiction over all U.S. embassies and consulates, has prioritized the processing of immigrant visa cases based on various factors. This prioritization of case types will likely remain in effect until the pandemic is under control.

Four Tiers of Prioritized Visa Categories

Consistent with U.S. immigration law, the DOS has explicitly listed family reunification as a priority. In furtherance of this rule, the DOS has set forth the following four tiers for prioritizing the processing of immigrant visas:

Tier One: Immediate relative inter-country adoption visas, age-out visa applicants who will soon no longer be eligible due to age, and SQ/SI special immigrant visas for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government

Tier Two: Immediate relative visas, fiancé/e visas, and returning resident visas

Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas and SE special immigrant visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad

Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas

To mitigate current backlogs in Tier One and Tier Two, the vast majority of public resources have been utilized to maximize the case numbers processed under these categories. In the meanwhile, consular posts still need to process at least some Tier Three and Tier Four cases each month to ensure these visa categories do not incur significant additional backlogs due to being lower in the prioritization hierarchy.


The visa prioritization plan is the first giant leap taken by DOS towards effectively eliminating longstanding visa backlogs in various categories. However, actual conditions and capacity at local consular posts may vary, and foreign nationals should make travel plans based on specific information provided by the local consulate or embassy.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.