Seguritan US Immigration Articles

Immigrant Visa Waiting List Grows By Over 1 Million

Over 1.18 million applicants were added last year to the immigrant visa waiting list in the various preference categories subject to numerical limits.

A report from the National Visa Center and submitted to the Department of State shows that as of November 1, 2010, there were 4,552,774 family-based applicants, an increase of 1,183,319 or 35.1% from last year. The number of employment-based visa applicants was 130,619, up by 110 applicants from last year.

The Philippines placed second over-all, with 535,750 registrants. The other countries that round up the top five in terms of number of registrants are: Mexico – 1,381,896; India – 336,719; Vietnam – 283,299; and China – 274,563.

These numbers include not only the principal applicants or petition beneficiaries but also their spouses and children entitled to derivative status. However, they do not include spouses, unmarried children under 21 years of age, and parents of U.S. citizens who are not subject to the numerical limitations.

The figures do not also include the significant number of applicants for adjustment of status. Also excluded are those who failed to respond within one year to the visa application instruction letter sent by the National Visa Center notifying them of visa availability. In such case, the petition is considered inactive and not counted in the waiting list totals.

For fiscal year 2011, or from October 1, 2010 through September 30, 2011, the total number of visas to be issued is 226,000 in family-based preferences and 140,000 for employment-based preferences. The total per-country limit will be 25,620, which translates to decades-long wait times for applicants in certain categories from countries such as the Mexico, India, China and the Philippines.

The numbers of registrants for the family-based preferences (F) are: F1 (unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens) – 271,018; F2A (spouses and children of permanent residents) – 361,038; F2B (adult sons and daughters of permanent residents) – 552,573; F3 (married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens) – 853,083; and F4 (brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens) – 2,515,062.

The Philippines has the second highest number of family preference registrants with 488,737. The per-country limit on the annual number of family preference visas for FY 2011 is 15,280.

Mexico ranked first in all family-based preferences. The Philippines ranked second in F1, F2B and F3 categories; fourth in the F2A category, and third in the F4 category. More cases may be added to the F1 waiting list because of the automatic conversion of pending 2B cases into F1 cases upon the naturalization of the petitioner, but this can be avoided by availing of the opt-out provision under the Child Status Protection Act. By opting to remain as an F2B case, a longer wait time under the F1 category is avoided.

For employment-based preferences (EB), the breakdown of registrants is as follows: EB1 (workers with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational managers and executives) – 2,961; EB2 (advanced degree professionals and aliens of exceptional ability) – 6,738; EB3 (skilled workers and professionals) – 102,395; EB3 (other workers) 16,788, EB4 (special immigrants and religious workers) – 554; and EB5 (employment creation) 1,183.

The Philippines ranked first in the EB3 (skilled workers) category, fourth in the EB2 and EB 3 (other workers) categories, and fifth in the EB4 category. Registrants from the Philippines comprise 36% of the total for employment-based preferences at 47,013, of which 93.7% fall under the EB3 (skilled workers) category for the Philippines. For FY 2011, the per-country limit is only 9,800.

Approximately 90% all employment-based preference immigrants are currently being processed as adjustment of status cases which are excluded from this tally. This means that the actual demand for some employment categories is much higher.

Retrogression in Philippine Family Preferences

The December 2010 Visa Bulletin released by the Department of State shows a significant retrogression of the Family 2B, Third, and Fourth preference categories for the Philippines. The retrogression is due to the sudden increase in the demand for visa numbers from applicants with very early priority dates.

The cut-off dates will move back as follows: 2B preference – 2 years and 6 months (from September 1, 2002 to March 1, 2000); 3rd preference – 2 years and 8 months (from March 1, 1995 to July 1, 1992); 4th preference – 3 years and 3 months (from April 1, 1991 to January 1, 1988).

Because of the annual numerical limitation of visa numbers, cut-off dates are established for oversubscribed categories. If an applicant’s priority date is before the cut-off date stated in the monthly visa bulletin, a visa number is immediately available. If the priority date comes on or after the cut-off date, the applicant needs to wait until the priority date becomes current.

The 2B preference category refers to unmarried sons and daughters (21 years or older) of lawful permanent residents. The 3rd preference refers to married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. The 4th preference pertains to brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.

The 1st and 2A family preferences will not retrogress. The 1st preference category, which refers to unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, will show the same cut-off date of April 1, 1997 as it was in the November visa bulletin. The 2A preference, which refers to spouses and children (less than 21 years old) of permanent residents, will advance to August 1, 2010.

The retrogression will occur after monthly jumps that started last April. Because of the low demand for visa numbers in the previous months, the Department of State increased the allocation pace and this was intended to generate visa number demand so that the annual numerical limits could be fully utilized.

The family 2B, 3rd and 4th preferences greatly advanced as a result, but this rapid advance could not continue indefinitely. At some point, it must slow down, stop or retrogress. It is hard to predict how long this retrogression will last.

In light of this development, beneficiaries of Philippines family-based 2B, 3rd and 4th preference who have priority dates earlier than September 1, 2002, March 1, 1995 and April 1, 1991, and who are currently in the U.S., must file their adjustment application on or before November 30, 2010 in order to get certain interim immigration benefits such as employment authorization. Those with pending adjustment applications will be allowed to remain in the U.S. and work here until the adjudication of their adjustment applications.

Eligible to file for adjustment of status are those lawfully present in the United States or those who are beneficiaries under Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. To be covered under Section 245(i), an alien must be the beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition or labor certification filed on or before April 30, 2001. If the visa petition or labor certification was filed between January 14, 1998 and April 30, 2001, the alien must prove that he/she was in the U.S. on December 21, 2000.

Among the documents required to file for adjustment of status, in addition to Form I-485 and related forms, are the applicant’s photographs, medical examination report, affidavit of support, copy of passport and I-94, copy of birth certificate, and if applicable, copy of the applicant’s marriage certificate and official proof of termination of any prior marriage.

Fight for Immigration Reform Must Continue

The midterm elections drastically changed the composition of Congress with the Republicans seizing control of the House of Representatives. Whether the shakeup will result in gridlock or compromise remains to be seen. What is certain is the effect that this power shift will have on the future of immigration policy in this country.

First, the bad news. Representative Lamar Smith of Texas is in line to become chair the House Judiciary Committee. A known immigration hardliner, Rep. Smith is expected to promote Arizona-type immigration laws nationwide, among other items in his restrictionist agenda.

The House Immigration Subcommittee will be chaired by another known anti-immigrant, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who has announced that he will propose a birthright citizenship bill, legislation in support of Arizona-type immigration laws, and a bill denying federal income tax deductions for wages and benefits paid to undocumented workers.

Now for some good news. The Democrats still hold majority in the Senate. Pro-immigrant Harry Reid triumphed over the anti-incumbent wave and won a fifth term. Even if he steps aside as Majority Leader, Sen. Reid will be most likely replaced by either Senator Schumer of New York or Sen. Durbin of Illinois – both allies on the broad immigration front.

Moreover, the Democratic casualties in both houses are not as bad as they seem: many of those who were ousted from the House were “Blue Dogs” or conservative Democrats who were less likely to support a comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill.

When Congress reconvenes for its “lame duck” session to take care of unfinished business, we can still expect to see some efforts at pushing for immigration action. Senator Reid, for instance, has stated that he will reintroduce the DREAM Act and try to get some outgoing Senators who had voted against it to change their mind.

Everyone will feel the palpable effect of a closely divided Congress come January 2011. As a CNN article put it, where one party has a supermajority, there is little or no incentive to compromise. In this new Congress, compromise is key.

Immigration reform will help the economy by raising wages, creating jobs, increasing consumption and generating more tax revenue. Filipinos could benefit greatly from the provisions of the last CIR bill introduced in the House, and these are issues that we should continue to fight for.

For instance, under the bill unused family and employment visas would be recaptured, resulting in hundreds of thousands of visas being added to the visa pool. In such an event, some preference categories will probably become current while the others will have a considerable reduction in their visa number wait.

Another provision in the bill seeks to upgrade spouses and children of lawful permanent residents, presently classified under second preference category, to the immediate relative classification, thus exempting them from the annual cap. The bill also provides for the increase in the percentage limit of visas issued for each country from the current seven percent (7%) of the worldwide total. In addition, the bill gives an exemption to the children of Filipino World War II veterans from the annual visa cap – a fitting recognition of the contribution of the veterans by accelerating reunification with their families.

Nurses and physical therapists would also be exempted from numerical limitations which will result in their ability to immigrate immediately. Currently, these professionals are classified under the third preference category, where the wait time for a visa number is over five years.

There are groups that continue to advocate for immigration reform on behalf of the Filipino community. One is NAFFAA (National Federation of Filipino American Associations) which monitors legislation and public policy issues affecting Filipinos in the United States. Another is the Fil-Am Reform Immigration for America Task Force which is part of a coalition of more than 700 groups and 60,000 people behind the CIR proposal.

We must continue advancing immigration reform and not lose sight of our goals. Clearly, the battle is not lost. Despite the setback caused by the Republican takeover, immigration reform may still be achieved.

Future of Immigration Reform After Midterm Elections

The balance of power in Congress has shifted. Republicans now have control over the House of Representatives, surpassing the 218-seat requirement to reach majority. The Democratic Party retains control of the Senate but only by a narrow margin.

So what does a Republican House mean for proponents of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR)? For starters, the chances of a CIR bill being passed this or next year are slim.

With a divided Congress, there will be very limited political capital to move the current CIR proposal forward. Any CIR bill that will stand a chance in the new political landscape will look very different from what CIR supporters originally presented the then-Democratic Congress.

For instance, a legalization program will be likely out of the question. Enforcement measures and border security will continue to be given priority, and the debate over birthright citizenship may continue.

CIR advocates have already pushed for incremental or piecemeal legislation, but one could not as of yet characterize their efforts as a success.

First, the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act – a law intended to grant lawful status to undocumented students– failed to pass Republican filibuster last September. Another bill, the AgJOBS (Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security) Act, which aims to regularize the status of undocumented farm workers, is still in the first step of the legislative mill. Its future in the new Congress is uncertain.

Some groups are optimistic that with a more business-oriented party in control, skilled immigration reform is more likely to move forward in Congress. An article in The Economist noted that a research group called the Hamilton Project found that the number of foreign workers in the U.S. has been declining, and added that this might be a reflection of the country’s diminished appeal to the world’s most sought-after workers.

With few job prospects and restrictive immigration policies, some educated and skilled workers have chosen to go back to their native countries. Still more are deterred from even entering the country to find what opportunities may be open to them. A plan to encourage these skilled individuals to come to the U.S. may, as it has done in the past, encourage business and spur technological growth.

If skilled immigration is advanced separately, the odds of reform advocates scoring a win in Congress will increase. The challenge in doing so, however, lies in the fact that skilled immigration reform is part of CIR: the latter will likely lose steam if the former is tackled independently of the issue of illegal immigration, which has proven to be a sticking point in any talk of immigration reform. On the other hand, splitting skilled immigration from CIR just might make it more palatable and result in more cooperation and compromise in Congress.

President Barack Obama vowed immigration reform during his 2008 campaign. He has so far failed to deliver on this promise as his immigration agenda took a back seat to health care reforms and the economic stimulus plan.

The economic recession, high unemployment rates and a record-setting budget deficit have contributed to low approval ratings for Obama and the Democratic Congress, not to mention the resurgence of the GOP and even the rise of the insurgent Tea Party.

The economic downturn, political climate, and the constant threat of terrorism, have also spawned a new wave of nativism in the country. This nativist and anti-immigrant sentiment was illustrated during the controversial debate behind Arizona’s SB1070, the unprecedented law that allows the state’s government to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants. The constitutionality of this law is currently pending review by a federal appellate court.

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