Foreign nationals from certain countries hoping to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs) in the United States face extended backlogs due to visa number availability. The number of LPRs that can be granted each year is capped and controlled by limiting the visa numbers that are issued. Each family or employment-based immigrant category has its own limit and a per-country limit of 7 percent of the total number. High demand countries, such as India and China, become oversubscribed with more applicants than visa numbers each year, resulting in excessive backlogs.
One important factor to consider in the LPR process is the concept of “chargeability”. Chargeability refers to the country against which an applicant is counted or “charged” for the purpose of determining if a visa number is available. Understanding the options for favorable chargeability, including chargeability to a spouse’s country of birth, can greatly impact the wait time for a green card.
The basic rule of chargeability is that a person is charged against the quota for their country of birth, not country of citizenship. However, in some situations, it is possible to be charged against the country of chargeability of one’s spouse, known as cross-chargeability. For example, if a person born in the Australia marries a person born in India, both could potentially be charged to the Australia, rather than India.
The cross-chargeability rule also applies to minor children. Children can utilize the quota of either parent, but it does not allow parents to be charged to the country of birth of their respective children. One other rare exception to the standard chargeability rules is when a child is born in a country where neither parent was born or has a residence at the time of the child’s birth. In this situation, the child may utilize the country of chargeability of either parent.
It is important to be aware of the general exceptions to chargeability as it can greatly impact the wait time for a green card. The latest guidelines related to cross-chargeability are detailed in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy manual. It is advisable to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to understand your options and the best way to proceed with your green card application.