On this page:
Every immigrant visa case is different, so it is difficult to estimate how long the process will take for a specific individual. In general, there are three factors that contribute to the processing time required:
Time Required to Process a Petition
The time it takes for USCIS to approve a petition varies according to the type of petition and the specific USCIS office involved. Estimates for specific USCIS offices are available here.
Time Required to Process through the National Visa Center and the Consulate General
If your petition is approved by USCIS in the United States, it will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing before being forwarded to the U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou. If your petition is approved by USCIS in China, it will be forwarded directly to the U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou. As part of this process, you will receive instructions from the NVC or the U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou about documents you are required to submit.
Time for Case to Become Current (If Applicable)
For certain categories of immigrants, the law allows only a limited number of visas to be issued each year. These cases are processed strictly in order of the date the petition was filed (this is the priority date). Visas cannot be issued until an applicant's priority date is reached. This could take several years. While it is impossible to say exactly how long it will take, the Visa Bulletin, published monthly, lists the priority dates currently being processed.
Note: When the petitioner naturalizes, all F2A petitions (spouse or minor child of a permanent resident) are automatically converted to IR1 (spouse of an American) or IR2 (child of an American) petitions. These visa categories are not subject to the visa quota system and will, therefore, always have visas available for the beneficiaries' use if they qualify for visa issuance. Contact USCIS for more information.
While unmarried children under the age of 21 may qualify for derivative immigration benefits on the same I-130 petition that was filed for the spouse, it is highly recommended that separate I-130s be filed for each member of the family, to ensure that the children will maintain their eligibility for immigration benefits in the event that the petitioner naturalizes as a U.S. citizen before the visas are issued. When the petitioner of an F2A application naturalizes, derivative beneficiaries do not continue to derive immigration benefits, since the IR1 visa class does not allow for the inclusion of derivative beneficiaries.