General rule – your country of birth determines your chargeability
The Visa Bulletin is a table published online every month by the Department of State, which lays out the wait times for an immigrant visa – either family, employment, or investment-based – to become available in each category. Wait times can differ – sometimes in decades – depending on whether you are applying from certain specific countries, including mainland China, India, Mexico, Philippines, and El Salvador/Guatemala/Honduras.
In the present generation, many individuals have dual citizenships and sometimes renounce their citizenship at birth. In these cases, will these individuals be able to be classified in a different country category in the visa bulletin and benefit from a shorter waiting time?
Unfortunately, no – gaining dual citizenship or even renouncing one’s citizenship at birth will not change the country that person will fall under for immigrant visa quota-counting purposes. In other words, a person’s place of birth determines what country that person is “charged” to in the visa bulletin. This is called “chargeability.”
It is worth noting that chargeability classifications do not neatly follow country units. For example, individuals born in mainland China are in a different category from those born in Taiwan. Those born in Hong Kong are also considered a distinct category.
Exceptions to the country-of-birth Chargeability Rule
There are three exceptions to the country-of-birth chargeability rule. The most common case is the derivative chargeability/alternate chargeability rule for the purpose of family separation, which allows a spouse or child to match the chargeability area of a principal applicant in cases where the spouse and/or child are accompanying or following-to-join the spouse/parent. This can also work the other way in limited circumstances, where a principal applicant may benefit from a more favorable chargeability area based on his or her accompanying spouse’s place of birth. Note that this will only apply if both the principal applicant and the spouse are applying for admission simultaneously.
It is important to accurately understand which country you will be charged to for immigration visa availability purposes and the exceptions for which you may qualify under.
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