On a regular basis, new clients ask what is the fastest way to get my loved one to the United States and stay. This complex question has various possible answers. A person can apply for a tourist visa, however, obtaining a tourist visa, also known as a B visa in some countries is extremely difficult or impossible. There is discretion involved in granting these visas by the officer who decides the application at the embassy. If, he or she has any belief that you have plans to stay permanently in the United States or if you do not have the ability to show sufficient family ties and financial holdings in your country, there is likely to be a denial.
After an unsuccessful visa attempt, clients then often look to other ideas such as fiance’ visas or marriage visas to enter the United States. That’s when the attorney has to provide the honest truth—it takes a while to complete the process. Some attorneys will tell you it is quicker than adjustment of status in the United States, but this is wholly untrue. They will also tell you that it only takes 5 months. Well, this may be true for the approval of the initial application, it would be extremely rare, next to impossible to finalize a consular case in that time frame. There are too many steps involved.
Here is a summary of the tedious process:
- United States citizen relative files an application, either fiancé based (nonimmigrant) or marriage based at the USCIS in America.
- Assuming all of the documentation has been submitted properly and the relationship of the couple appears proper, the application will be approved in approximately 5 months. (Please note, 5 months is today’s timeline, while tomorrow’s timeline may be even longer)
- After the application is approved, next, you must submit some fees, wait for proof of payment then begin submitting a new set of documents, your case has then been transferred to another entity (NVC)
- This time frame is generally also when you send in the visa application and Affidavit of Support. More waiting occurs while NVC reviews the Affidavit of Support and the visa application. This time frame take about 1-3 month.
- Next, the case is sent to the Department of State to finalize at the proper embassy. During this time, original documents may be under review, medical appointments must be arranged and police reports should be gathered. Again, more waiting is involved since interview appointments are not immediate. Interviews in some countries are scheduled within a few weeks, while in other embassies they can take months. This time difference is based upon how busy the particular embassy is at any given time.
Even after, you have added the time estimates here, there still can be delays that cannot be explained. When a particular service center receives too many files, it becomes backlogged, thereby pushing cases aside or sending them to other service centers to finalize. Sometimes files become misplaced. Or, a case can be short on documents or information so that can create delays in returning the documents and having the case re-reviewed. Or, the DHS can be changing its application forms, thereby creating delays, be short staffed, closed for overseas holidays, experience computer glitches, etc. Unfortunately there is no absolute way to predict exactly how long until a family member’s case is scheduled for interview.
So, on the short side, a consular based family case (marriage or fiancé) can take 7 months, but usually cases range from 12-16 months from initial processing to final stage.
Indeed, you want your family member to arrive in the United States quickly, but don’t be mislead about the real time lines. And, if in doubt, check yourself on USCIS, and Department of State websites, or call them to inquire.