What Is the Immigrant Visa Quota System?
The Quota System
U.S. law limits the number of prospective immigrants who may be admitted annually. The Immigration Act of 1990 establishes an annual limit of 700,000 visas for quota-restricted immigrants. The annual limit of immigrant visa numbers allotted to applicants worldwide is divided among certain “preference categories” of family-sponsored immigrants, employment-based immigrants and diversity immigrants. Among the classes of immigrants exempt from this limit are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (including spouses, parents and minor unmarried children) and certain people granted adjustment of status as refugees or asylees or under the cancellation-of-removal provisions.
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How Demand Is Determined
Visa availability for the various preference categories under the quota system is based on worldwide and country-specific demand and is determined according to a complex statutory formula administered by the U.S. Department of State. The law establishes “per country” ceilings within the annual allotments for family-sponsored, employment-sponsored and diversity immigrants, applying the annual limit to natives of any single foreign state. Current law entitles natives of all foreign states up to 7 percent (about 26,000) of the visas issued under family-based and employment-based preference categories.
Current cutoff dates under the quota system are published monthly in the State Department Visa Bulletin.