How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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

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Source: Visa Bulletin for August 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 their petitions.

It's the start of August, time once more to post the latest wait times for legal entry via the U.S. State Department’s monthly Visa Bulletin. The bulletin lists wait times for hopeful immigrants in several family-sponsored visa categories.

As has been the norm, those waiting the longest are still hopeful immigrants in the Philippines, followed by people waiting in Mexico. For those still waiting, the line has budged little since last month. There are brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens waiting to come legally as immigrants from the Philippines who have waited more than two decades, with some people who filed petitions in early 1989 now 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 February 1, 1989).

3) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from the Philippines, a wait of now more than 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 nearly 20 years (petitions filed August 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)

The waits are so long because 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 more demand for family reunification. Would-be immigrants in these countries are competing for the same number of visas available to people in countries where there is far less demand, so they face a longer wait.

What the monthly bulletin shows are priority dates, meaning the dates on which petitions were filed, as visas technically become available to those who are waiting. But the priority dates are subject to change and often do. This means that many who thought their wait was over find themselves having to wait longer.

The waits above don’t apply to those 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 to sponsor their parents, and penalties apply if the parents entered illegally). Other family members must wait for their priority date to come up.

Some lawmakers have recently proposed adjusting the per-country limits on family-sponsored visas and eliminating those for employer-based visas. There is proposed 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 August 2012 can be viewed here.

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