Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Who had to wait longest for an immigrant visa this month?

Who has had to wait the longest to come legally to the U.S. as an immigrant this month? As it's been in recent months, it's hopeful immigrants from the Philippines, people being sponsored by their siblings who filed their paperwork back in 1988.

The line for immigrants from Mexico and the Philippines who are being sponsored by U.S. citizen and legal resident relatives moves at a glacial pace, and little has changed since last month. According to this month's Visa Bulletin from the U.S. State Department, here are the top four categories of immigrants who have waited longest as their number for a visa comes up:

1) Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens from the Philippines, a wait of more than 23 years (petitions filed May 15, 1988).

2) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from the Philippines, a wait of more than 19 years (petitions filed March 22, 1992)

3) Unmarried adult (21 and over) sons and daughters of U.S. legal permanent residents from Mexico, a wait of close to 19 years (petitions filed September 22, 1992)

4) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico, a wait of close to 19 years (petitions filed November 15, 1992)

Each month, immigrant visas technically become available to those whose priority dates, i.e. the dates on which their petitions were filed, are listed in the visa bulletin. Being on the monthly priority date list is great news for those waiting, but the dates are subject to change and often do. This means that some who thought their long wait was over will have to wait longer.

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 Mexico, the Philippines, China and India, countries represented by large immigrant populations here, there is an especially high demand for family reunification, hence the long waits.

It’s not unusual for hopeful immigrants abroad being sponsored by relatives in the United States to spend years waiting in line, sometimes 20 years or more. Immigrants defined as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, such as spouses, parents, and children under 21, are exempt from the limits (although U.S.-born children of immigrants must be 21 in order to sponsor their parents, and penalties apply if the parents entered illegally).

But other relatives must wait until their priority date comes up. The entire Visa Bulletin for July 2011 can be viewed here.