Generally speaking, there are two types of family-based immigrant visas-Immediate Relative petitions and Preference Category Petitions. Immediate Relative petitions move relatively quickly; however, USCIS can only approve a certain number of Preference Category petitions, from each country, each year, which can lead to large backlogs, in certain categories.

What is Chargeability?

Whether your priority date is current (which determines when you can apply for your green card) is found on the visa bulletin. You read the visa bulletin by looking for your preference category and your country. Where this row and column intersect tells you what priority dates are being processed that month.

Your country is the country to which your visa will be ‘charged’ or credited. In some categories with large backlogs, it can be beneficial to be of a certain nationality.

Take the following example, from the October 2019 Visa Bulletin. For category F4, which is for Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens, if you are from Mexico, the Department of State is currently processing green card applications where the I-130 was filed on or before December 15, 1997. If you are from Ireland (falls under ‘all chargeability areas except those listed’), they are processing applications filed on or before November 22, 2006. Depending on your visa category, it can be beneficial to ‘charge’ your visa to a different country.

How is My Chargeability Country Determined?

Typically, your country of chargeability is your country of birth. Generally speaking, if you have dual citizenship in another country, it will not change your country for chargeability purposes.

What is Cross-Chargeability?

Cross Chargeability is the ability to charge your visa to another country’s quota. There are a few scenarios in which this is possible. The USCIS Adjudicator’s Manual outlines cases in which cross-chargeability is an option.

  • A minor child may be charged to the country of either parent (if immigrating with the parent or following shortly thereafter). A parent cannot use their child’s country of birth to cross-charge.
  • A spouse may be charged to their spouse’s country, so long as they are on the same petition and immigrating together. Couples can choose to use either the principal or derivative’s country for cross-charging purposes.
  • A minor child who was born in a country in which neither parent was a citizen may elect to be charged to the country of either parent; there is no requirement that the child immigrates at the same time as the parents.
  • Diversity Visa applicants may charge their country to that of their spouse, so long as they were married at the time the applications were made. This can be of particular importance if an individual is from a country that is ineligible for the Diversity Visa Lottery. The couple must apply for their permanent residency at the same time.

According to the Adjudicator’s Manual, the purpose of the cross-chargeability rules are to “preserve family unity and allow family members to immigrate together.” If you believe that your family’s visa applications could benefit from cross-chargeability rules, you should request that from USCIS when you file your I-485. Alternatively, if you will consular process, you can alert the National Visa Center and the consulate directly.

If you and your spouse, or you and your child hold different nationalities, and you would like information about cross-chargeability, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, are experienced in cross-chargeability cases. Please feel free to call us at (510) 491-0291 to see how we can help!

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