It's the beginning of the month, time for the latest update from the U.S. State Department's Visa Bulletin. The bulletin lists the categories of hopeful immigrants whose turn has come to enter the United States legally with an immigrant visa. But for many, the good news - provided the posted dates don't change, which can happen - comes after an excruciatingly long wait.
As it has been lately, the people waiting in line the longest are hopeful immigrants from the Philippines who are being sponsored by their siblings. The ones whose priority dates are on the bulletin this month filed petitions back in May of 1988.
Immigrants from Mexico who have been waiting are slightly ahead, but not by much. 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 April 1, 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 October 1, 1992)
4) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico, a wait of close to 19 years (petitions filed November 15, 1992)
How it works: Immigrant visas technically become available each month 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, meaning that some who thought they were done waiting must continue standing in line.
The reason that waits for immigrant visas are longer for people in countries like the Philippines, Mexico, China and India is that every nation is allotted the same percentage of visas from a pool of family and employer-based visas available each year, regardless of the demand from any particular nation. For those waiting in countries represented by large immigrant populations in the U.S., high demand for family reunification means more applicants, and longer waits.
Long waits, if not as long, also apply to family-sponsored immigrants from China and India. The siblings of U.S. citizens waiting in those countries have been in line since 2000.
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 August 2011 can be viewed here.