While gift-givers everywhere brave long lines to find and buy presents for their friends, families, co-workers, and others, our thoughts turn to a different sort of line. One that seems to snake endlessly around virtual bureaucratic blocks, and which - for too many people - never move fast enough to make a difference. That would be the "approved visa petition" line, which is a real doozy.
Many a conversation about U.S. immigration law in general, and immigration reform in particular, generates an often well-meaning declaration about the importance of people "coming here legally". This is sometimes accompanied by a nostalgic reminiscence about how the speaker's immigrant ancestors did it "the right way".
The very nature of our business is precisely to assist individuals, businesses, and institutions as they navigate the American immigration process. Our mission: make (or keep) our clients legal.
As we face a new presidential administration, and wonder about what changes we might expect, we would like to take a moment to address what it means to go through the immigration process. Let's discuss what really occurs when someone has to "stand in line" to await legalization.
The impetus for this reflection is a recent report issued by the National Visa Center at the request of the U.S. State Department, showing that 4,259,573 immigrant visa applicants are currently waiting for their approved petition dates (aka, "priority dates") to become current. These applicants fall under multiple subcategories in the family and employment-based preference categories, which are subject to annual numerical limits.
In the family preference realm, waits may be anywhere from around 18 months (for the immediate relatives of a lawful permanent resident) to over 23 - TWENTY-THREE! - years (for the Filipino sibling of a U.S. citizen).
When it comes to employment preferences, some subcategories are current, while others have a six-month backlog, while still others involve eleven-and-a-half-year waiting times for Chinese and Indian citizens. The January 2017 Visa Bulletin lists all of the priority and final action dates for family and employment-based visa preference groups.
Productive dialogue requires a clear understanding of the underlying operative facts. By virtually all reasonable accounts, the current U.S. immigration system is broken, failing to function effectively in a modern world in which people seek to cross borders like never before. Realizing that doing everything "by the book" may still result in waiting times which render the petition/application meaningless is a key part of addressing and fixing what is wrong with our system. Wishing to join one's family, or to take a waiting job for which no other suitable candidates applied is hardly morally questionable. We are a nation which purports to exalt family values and the entrepeneurial spirit, fully and without equivocation. If that remains the case, it is well past time to reform our immigration laws.
So, against that backdrop, we wish you all a very happy holiday season, regardless of what you celebrate (or if you don't celebrate anything at all). May you slow down enough to find peace and calm amongst the usual chaos and din of modern life.
Have more questions about how immigration law works? We're just a phone call or an e-mail away.