How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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

Source: Visa Bulletin for April 2012, U.S. Department of State

Nations with current longest waits for family-sponsored based immigrant visas: The priority dates shown are when applicants now up for processing filed petitions.

It's April and time for another look at the wait times for family-sponsored visas, for whom some people wait a very, very long time. We skipped a month in March, but the line hasn't budged much. According to the U.S. State Department's monthly Visa Bulletin, the longest waits continue to be endured by the siblings of U.S. citizens from the Philippines, as is the norm.

Until recently, hopeful immigrants from the Philippines in this visa category had been waiting in line since 1988. This has now moved up to 1989, with those who filed petitions in January of that year finally up to receive immigrant visas for the U.S. Here are this month's top four categories of immigrants who have faced the longest waits:

1) Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens from the Philippines, a wait of more than 23 years (petitions filed January 8, 1989).

2) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from the Philippines, a wait that's coming up on 20 years (petitions filed July 22, 1992)

3) Unmarried adult (21 and over) sons and daughters of U.S. legal permanent residents from Mexico, a wait of more than 19 years (petitions filed December 1, 1992)

4) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico, a wait of more than 19 years (petitions filed January 15, 1993)

Why are these waits to come to the U.S. legally so long? Every country 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 individual nation. For countries represented by especially large immigrant populations in the U.S., such as Mexico, the Philippines, China and India, there is an especially high demand for family reunification. Because hopeful immigrants in these countries are competing for the same number of available visas as hopeful immigrants in countries where there is far less demand, they face a much longer wait.

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, but the dates are subject to change, and often do. When this happens, those thought they’d made it to the front of the line must wait even longer.

These waits don't apply to those defined as “immediate” relatives of U.S. citizens, like spouses, parents, and children under 21, all of whom 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 family members must wait until their priority date comes up.

A bill that would have eliminated per-country caps on employment visas and somewhat eased the limits on family-sponsored visas stalled in the Senate late last year.

The entire Visa Bulletin for April 2012 can be viewed here, and the March bulletin here.

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