How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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

Source: Visa Bulletin for October 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.

October is underway, meaning it's time to see who has had the longest wait for a family-sponsored immigrant visa this month. Twenty years, twenty three years? The line doesn't budge much, at least not for hopeful immigrants in certain categories, from certain countries.

We skipped a month, but the composition of the line is more or less the same: Those waiting longest are the siblings and adult children of U.S. citizens from the Philippines, followed by hopeful immigrants from Mexico. And many of those whose turn has come up this month filed paperwork more than two decades ago.

Here are the four top categories with the longest waits, according to the U.S. State Department's monthly Visa Bulletin for October:

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

2) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from the Philippines, a wait of 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 20 years (petitions filed October 1, 1992)

4) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico, a wait of more than 19 years (petitions filed February 8, 1993)

Why are these waits so long? Every nation is allotted the same percentage of visas from a pool of family and employer-based visas available each year, although the demand from different individual nations varies greatly. For countries represented by especially large immigrant populations in the U.S., the demand for available visas is especially high, which means those applying to come to the U.S. legally sponsored by relatives must spend a much longer time waiting.

What the bulletin shows are priority dates, i.e. the dates on which petitions were filed, as visas technically become available to those waiting. But while having one’s priority date appear in the visa bulletin is great news, the dates are subject to change. When this happens, people who thought their turn had come up must wait longer.

The waits listed here don’t apply to immigrants defined as “immediate” relatives of U.S. citizens, such as spouses, parents, and children under 21. They are exempt from the limits in these visa categories. (However, U.S.-born children of immigrants must be 21 in order to sponsor their parents, and penalties apply if the parents came 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 them for employer-based visas, but this would not make more family visas available.

The entire Visa Bulletin for October can be viewed here; the September bulletin can be found here.

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