The length of time it takes to get an immigrant visa will depend on the category of immigrant visa.
There are a limited number of immigrant visas available each year. Generally there are more people who want to immigrate than there are immigrant visas. This means that for many people, they will need to wait for a visa number to become available before they will be able to get an immigrant visa.
How long will I have to wait to get my immigrant visa?
For people who are “immediate relatives” of United States citizens, there is no wait for a visa number. Immediate relatives include: spouses of United States citizens, parents of United States citizens, and unmarried children under age 21 of United States citizens. Immediate relatives will still need to wait for their applications to be processed and for their visa interview to be scheduled, but there will not be an additional delay while waiting for a visa number to become available.
For all other immigrant visa categories, you can find out when a visa number will become available by checking the monthly visa bulletin. The visa bulletin is published by the Department of State each month and lists which visa applications are currently being processed. The visa bulletin does this by listing the “priority date” of the immigrant visa petitions that are currently being processed. The priority date is the date that the immigrant visa petition was received by USCIS after it was submitted by the United States citizen or permanent resident petitioner.
Some categories of visas traditionally have very long wait times. For example, brothers and sisters of United States citizens generally need to wait over 10 years for a visa number to become available. Other categories may only have to wait from several months to several years. If you are waiting for a visa number to become available, you should check the visa bulletin each month so that you know when a visa is available and you can move forward with the application process.