How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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

Source: Visa Bulletin for July 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.

We're well into July, which means it's time for another look at the wait times for family-sponsored visas. The long line has shifted somewhat, but it hasn’t budged much. According to the U.S. State Department’s monthly Visa Bulletin, the longest waits continue to be endured by siblings of U.S. citizens from the Philippines, with waits stretching beyond two decades.

Hopeful immigrants from the Philippines who filed petitions in February of 1989 - that's more than 23 years ago - are finally up to receive immigrant visas for the U.S. Here are this month’s top four categories of immigrants facing the longest waits:

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

2) Unmarried adult (21 and over) sons and daughters of U.S. legal permanent residents from Mexico, a wait of more than 20 years (petitions filed January 1, 1992)

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)

4) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico, a wait of more than 19 years (petitions filed January 22, 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 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, meaning that 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. Hence, a much longer wait.

What the 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 via bulletin is great news, but the dates are subject to change and often do. When this happens, those thought they were about to receive a visa must continue to wait their turn.

These waits don’t apply to immigrants defined as “immediate” relatives of U.S. citizens, such as 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). Other family members must wait until their priority date comes up.

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

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

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