In most cases, when applicants apply for employer-sponsored or family-sponsored green cards, they must wait before a visa is available in order to get their us green card. This is because demand for visas is very high. The U.S. Department of State sets green card numbers at 226 000 per year for family-sponsored visas and 140 000 per year for employer-sponsored green cards. There are also limits on the number of visas allotted to every country each year. This means that if you have a lower preference category when applying for your green card and come from a country where many immigrants are seeking admission to the United States, you may need to wait a number of years for a green card to become available.
You may not necessarily need to wait to get a green card in 2012. If you have an immediate family member who is a US citizen – for example, a spouse – you may not need to wait to get a green card in 2012, since there are no limits on the number of visas available for immediate relatives. If you apply for and win the diversity visa lottery, you may also get a green card without having to wait.
If you have not won the visa lottery and are not an immediate relative of a US citizen, you will need to wait for your priority date in order to apply for a green card. This date is printed on the petition that is filed on your behalf. The Department of State also makes visa bulletins available, with information about upcoming priority dates. For example, the February 2012 bulletin indicates that family-sponsored petitioners who are not subject to country limits can seek a visa number if their priority date is before 15 Oct 04. For applicants applying from the Philippines, China, or Mexico, the priority dates are different, as there are many immigrants from these countries.
It is possible to view the latest bulletins by visiting http://www.travel.state.gov to get the latest updates.