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How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Longest waits for immigrant visas: January

Nations with current longest waits for family-sponsored based immigrant visas: The priority dates shown are when applicants now up for processing filed their petitions.
Nations with current longest waits for family-sponsored based immigrant visas: The priority dates shown are when applicants now up for processing filed their petitions. Source: Visa Bulletin for January 2011, U.S. Department of State

It's January, which means it's time for our monthly feature on the longest waits for green cards. Last month, the people who became eligible for immigrant visas after waiting the longest had endured a wait of 23 years, having filed their petitions in early 1988.

This month it's no different, according to the U.S. State Department’s Visa Bulletin. Some of the hopeful immigrants whose number is up to receive a green card this month have been waiting in line since January 1988. That was before the launch of the World Wide Web, when acid-washed jeans were considered fashionable, and before most people had ever heard of grunge rock.

Immigrant visas have technically become available for those whose priority dates, i.e. the dates on which petitions were filed, are listed in the bulletin. This month, the longest waits have been endured by:

1) Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens from the Philippines, a wait of 23 years (petitions filed January 1, 1988).

2) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from the Philippines, a wait of more than 19 years (petitions filed October 22, 1991)

3) Unmarried adult (21 and over) sons and daughters of U.S. legal permanent residents from Mexico, a wait of more than 18 years (petitions filed June 22, 1992)

4) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico, a wait of more than 18 years (petitions filed October 22, 1992)

Being on the monthly priority date list for a green card is good news for those waiting, though the dates are subject to change and often do, meaning that some who thought their wait was over must wait longer.

It’s not unusual to see waits of close to 20 years or more endured by family members abroad being sponsored by relatives in the United States. Those in some countries, especially Mexico and the Philippines, have far longer waits than others.

Here’s why: Every nation is allotted the same percentage from a pool of family and employer-based visas available each year, regardless of the demand from any individual nation. For those waiting in countries represented by large immigrant populations here, making for a high demand for family reunification, the wait to enter the country legally can take a surprisingly long time.

Immigrants defined as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, i.e. spouses, parents, and children under 21, are exempt from the limits. But others, such as the adult children or siblings of U.S. citizens or legal residents, must wait in line until their priority date comes up.

The entire Visa Bulletin for January 2011 can be viewed here.

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