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.

Illegal immigration to the U.S. may have slowed, but the long line for legal entry that many blame in part for driving some to take the illegal route doesn't seem to be moving any more quickly.

Now that it's May, it's time to take a look once more at the U.S. State Department’s monthly Visa Bulletin, which lists the wait times for hopeful immigrants waiting to come to the U.S. legally on family-sponsored visas. And as is the norm, the longest waits continue to be endured by those being sponsored by U.S relatives in the Philippines, followed by people waiting in Mexico.

Until recently, hopeful immigrants from the Philippines in this visa category had been waiting in line since 1988. Now, those who filed petitions in January 1989 are finally up to receive immigrant visas - which means that people who remained in line all this time have had to wait 23 years.

The top four categories of immigrants who have faced 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 January 22, 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)

With the exception of the first group, the lines for the others haven't budged since last month. Why are these waits so long? Here's how it works: Each 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 an especially large immigrant population in the U.S., such as Mexico, the Philippines, China and India, there is much higher demand for family reunification. Hopeful immigrants in these countries are competing for the same number of available visas as people immigrants in countries where there is far less demand, so 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. However, the dates are subject to change and often do, meaning that many who think their wait is over find themselves having to wait longer still.

The waits above 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 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 May 2012 can be viewed here.

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