PDI - Why it takes almost an eternity to get a US visa
Why it takes almost an eternity to get a US visa
By Lourdes Santos Tancinco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 12:26:00 09/16/2008
Their father, a US green card holder, petitioned Steve and his four siblings. When the petition became current and the visas were issued, Steve was already 24 years old. All his siblings migrated to the United States, and Steve was left behind in Manila. This separation caused severe depression in Steve. He became an illegal drug user and was rehabilitated in an institution.
By the time he was ready for his US visa to be processed after five years, the consular officer barred Steve from receiving a visa. He was told that he was not admissible to the US because of his drug offenses. Steve lost his chance of being reunited with his family.
While the policy behind US immigration law is to foster family unity, the length of time it takes for some petitions to be approved and visas to be issued runs counter to this policy.
Why do some visas based on petitions take too long?
Except for spouses, parents and minor children of US citizens, all other petitions are subject to numerical limit. The Immigration Act of 1965 established the first-come, first-served basis of issuing visas, and set the numerical limitations on the number of visas that may be issued each year.
There is an annual cap of 480,000 visas based on family sponsored petitions. The total number of immigrant visas given to the natives of any single foreign state ordinarily may not exceed 7 percent of the limited visas issued annually. Those with severe backlog in processing of petitions are Mexico, Philippines, China and India.
Considering the limits in the number of visas that may be issued for each national of each country wanting to migrate to the US, Filipino petitioners find their approved petitions waiting for their priority dates to be current. A useful tool for determining which approved petitions are being processed is the US Department of State Visa Bulletin. This will give you monthly information and may be found in the website http://travel.state.gov.
For Filipinos being petitioned by their US citizen parents or siblings, the ones with the most severe backlog are petitions by siblings of US citizens that usually take more than 22 years. At present, they are only processing those petitions filed in March 1986. This is followed by approximately 17 years of waiting for petitions by US citizens on behalf of married adult children. Petitions by green card holders (non-US citizens yet) for their spouses and minor children usually take five years and for their adult children approximately 10 years.
With over a decade of separation from family members, the beneficiary child left behind is expected to wait patiently. But, as in the case of Steve, some suffer from depression as a result of separation.
For those separated from their spouses or partners, the lengthy processing time results in strained marital relationships. This increases the rate of divorced couples among Filipinos in the US.
Uncommon occurrence for those who want to join their family members in the US is the fact that some beneficiaries lie about their actual marital status and the existence of their minor children just to be able to migrate faster in the US as a single child. These obviously result in worst-case scenarios that eventually lead to rescission of green cards, if not deportation once the truth is discovered.
To top it all, the death of the petitioner after many years of waiting, creates a more difficult situation for the child being petitioned. This is because a petition generally dies with the petitioner. No matter how long the waiting lasted, if the petitioner dies, the child or beneficiary being petitioned loses his/her chance to migrate, except in limited humanitarian non-revocation cases.
Unfortunately, there are some petitioners who hold a mistaken belief that if they hire an attorney, they will be able to skip the processing time and numerical limits. Some offer to pay a significant amount of fees as “bribe” to try to jump the process of issuing visas.
This mistaken belief should be replaced by an understanding of the legal process and a reminder to the petitioned child of the value of waiting. It is sad that adverse and sometimes inhumane consequences result from a lengthy processing time. However, I still believe in the saying that “good things eventually come to those who wait.”
Tancinco may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 8877177. To learn more about relevant immigration cases affecting Filipinos in the US, watch her “Pusong Pinoy Sa Amerika” aired at QTV every Sunday at 9 a.m.