How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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

Nations with current longest waits for family-sponsored based immigrant visas: The priority dates shown are when applicants now up for processing filed petitions.
Nations with current longest waits for family-sponsored based immigrant visas: The priority dates shown are when applicants now up for processing filed petitions. Source: Visa Bulletin for June 2012, U.S. Department of State

We're well into June, meaning it's time to take a look once again at the line for legal entry via the U.S. State Department’s monthly Visa Bulletin. The bulletin lists the wait times for hopeful immigrants waiting to come to the U.S. legally in several family-sponsored visa categories, sponsored by relatives here. And once more, the longest waits continue to be endured by hopeful immigrants in the Philippines, followed by people waiting in Mexico.

For the patient souls still waiting, the line hasn't really budged since last month. Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens waiting to come legally as immigrants from the Philippines have endured a wait of more than two decades: Those who filed petitions in January 1989 are finally up to receive their visas. Here are the top four categories of immigrants who have waited longest 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) Unmarried adult (21 and over) sons and daughters of U.S. legal permanent residents from Mexico. Last month's priority date was for petitions filed December 1, 1992; the date has been pushed back somewhat, as this month's priority date listed is for petitions filed January 1,1992. Altogether, a wait of roughly 20 years.

3) 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)

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 so long? 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 in countries where there is far less demand, so they face a much lengthier wait.

What the monthly bulletin shows are priority dates, the dates on which petitions were filed, as visas technically become available to those who are waiting for them. However, the priority dates are subject to change, and they often do. This means that many who thought their wait was over, or at least coming close to an end, find themselves having to wait longer.

The waits above don’t apply to those defined as “immediate” relatives of U.S. citizens, i.e. 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 for their priority date to come up.

A couple of recent bills have proposed adjusting the per-country limits on family-sponsored visas and eliminating those for employer-based visas, including recently introduced legislation that aims to benefit employers by letting some foreign graduates students remain in the country after finishing their studies. But it would not make more family visas available.

The entire Visa Bulletin for June 2012 can be viewed here.

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