How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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

It's the beginning of November, which means it's time to take a look once more at who has been waiting in line the longest to come legally to the United States.

The line has budged little since last month, according the U.S. State Department’s monthly Visa Bulletin, which lists the categories of hopeful immigrants who are up to receive visas. As in recent months, those waiting the longest as relatives sponsor them to come to the U.S. are hopeful immigrants from the Philippines who filed their petitions way back in August of 1988.

Here are the top four categories of immigrants who have endured the longest waits this month:

1) Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens from the Philippines, a wait of more than 23 years (petitions filed August 22, 1988).

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

4) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico, a wait of close to 19 years (petitions filed December 8, 1992)

Others listed in the bulletin aren’t waiting much less. The unmarried adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico, for example, have been waiting since 1993. And while hopeful immigrants from the Philippines and Mexico endure the longest waits, those waiting in China and India don't have a speedy passage either, with some waiting in line since 2000.

What the monthly bulletin shows are priority dates, i.e. the dates on which petitions were filed, as visas technically become available to those waiting. Having one’s priority date appear in the monthly bulletin is great news, of course. But the dates are subject to change and often do, which means that many who thought they'd made it to the front of the line must keep waiting.

The reason the waits are so long for some is that 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 hopeful immigrants waiting in countries represented by large immigrant populations in the U.S. – such as Mexico, the Philippines, China and India – there is an especially high demand for family reunification, making for especially long visa waits.

Immigrants who are 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). Other family members must wait until their priority date comes up.

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

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