Multi-American

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 January 2013, U.S. Department of State

It's a brand new year, but the wait for family-sponsored immigrant visas is about where we left it a month ago. As usual, brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens from the Philippines are enduring the longest waits, followed by these citizens' adult married sons and daughters. Hopeful immigrants from Mexico follow in line.

The line doesn't budge much month to month, so how about year by year? For kicks, let's compare a few numbers from U.S. State Department's January 2013 visa bulletin with a similar list we published two years ago, from January 2011.

As of January 2013, here's who's waiting longest for visas:

1) Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens from the Philippines, a wait of more than 23 years (petitions filed April 15, 1989).

2) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from the Philippines, a wait of more than 20 years (petitions filed August 8, 1992)

3) 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 November 22, 1992)

4) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico, a wait approaching  20 years (petitions filed March 8, 1993)

And here's who'd waited longest in January 2011:

1) Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens from the Philippines, a wait of 23 years (petitions filed January 1, 1988): Over two years, a difference of a year and three months.

2) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from the Philippines, a wait of more than 19 years (petitions filed October 22, 1991): Over two years, a difference of a year and two months.

3) Unmarried adult (21 and over) sons and daughters of U.S. legal permanent residents from Mexico, a wait of more than 18 years (petitions filed June 22, 1992): Over two years, a difference of four months.

4) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico, a wait of more than 18 years (petitions filed October 22, 1992): Over five years, a difference of five months.

For certain hopeful immigrants, the line to come legally to the U.S. moves very, very slowly. The phrase "at a glacial pace" doesn't do it justice.

For the uninitiated, here's why: The United States allots every nation the same percentage of visas from a pool of family and employer-based visas available each year. But there is far greater demand in some nations - those with large numbers of immigrants in the U.S. like Mexico, the Philippines, China and India. This means that hopeful immigrants in these countries  compete for the same number of available visas as people in countries where there is less demand. Thus, they wait longer.

What the bulletin shows are priority dates - 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. They often do, resulting in an even longer wait for people who thought their number was finally up.

Immigrants defined as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens - spouses, parents, and children under 21 -  are exempt from the limits. But others must wait in line until their priority date comes up.

You can see the entire Visa Bulletin for January 2013 here.

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