Tag Archives: Department of State

Visa Bulletin advances, opens door closed since 2001

A technical but important event occurred earlier this month when the upcoming April 2013 Visa Bulletin was released. For many Central Americans who have been waiting patiently since 2001 for the opportunity to gain lawful immigration status, the release of this document has unlocked a door that has been closed to them for over a decade.

Some of our readers may be familiar with adjustment of status under Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 245(i) is important because it offers an alternate path to adjustment of status (“fixing your papers within the USA”) even if the applicant entered the country without permission, even if s/he worked without authorization, and even s/he entered with a visa which s/he overstayed or violated.

Section 245(i) was created in the 1990s but many potential applicants did not take advantage of it. The window for using this process was extended in the late days of the Clinton administration and included a filing deadline of April 30, 2001. Applicants pay a fine of $1,000 in order to utilize this alternate process, but they (like all visa applicants) must wait for a visa to become available.

That wait is not insignificant — it can take years and years, even ten, 15, or 20 years for a visa to be made available. In fact, what makes the April 2013 Visa Bulletin significant is that it reflects the first time* that the F-4 category (visas through U.S. citizen siblings) has been available to countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and others for applicants with the filing date of April 30, 2001.

The largest group of undocumented immigrants — from Mexico — still have a long wait before that fabled period of early 2001 reaches current visa availability. Mexico’s visa line is still so far backlogged that visas in the F-4 category are only available for applicants who filed prior to September 1, 1996. You can review the April 2013 Visa Bulletin here.

When our conversation centers on the requirement that undocumented individuals “get in the back of the line,” it is important to remember what that means. For thousands of long-patient applicants from Central America, the back of the line has finally reached fruition.

* A note: visa availability for these categories actually came available in late 2010 but quickly retrogressed because the Department of State realized that it had moved the line forward to aggressively. Most individuals who filed for their visas during this period had their cases processed and then held in abeyance. Approval notices and interview notices for eligible cases on hold from this period are being issued now.

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Filed under Family-Based Immigration, National News, Uncategorized, Undocumented Immigrants

Tip of the hat to DOS for I-601A heads-up messages

A quick word of thanks to the U.S. Department of State and the National Visa Center for its efforts to proactively identify individuals who may qualify for the new I-601A provisional waiver process.

Click here to see an example of what this letter might look like.

Anyone who has a pending case with the National Visa Center should contact them to ensure that all contact information (including physical mail and email) are current and accurate. Keep an eye out for a letter like the one above, and be sure to consult with a reputable immigration attorney or a BIA-accredited representative for more information.

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Filed under Family-Based Immigration, Undocumented Immigrants

Fiscal year 2012-13 opens with disappointment for immigrant families facing long waits

The federal government began its new fiscal year on October 1, 2012. This transition, both of new month and new year, has implications for a large portion of the family-based immigration system known as the Family Preference System. As we detail below, the new fiscal year opened on a disappointing note for many families hoping to be reunited with loved ones abroad such as spouses (2 years, 4 months of waiting for most countries), adult children (7 to 20 years delay depending on the country and other factors), or siblings (after 12 years for most of the world, 16.5 years for Mexico, and almost 24 years for the Philippines.)

If you are baffled by these absurd wait times you are not alone. We’ll try to explain these phenomena:

Applicants for family-based immigrant visas are broken up into two main categories: Immediate Relatives and Preference Immigrants. Immediate Relatives (IRs for short) are the parents, spouses, and unmarried children under 21 years of age of U.S. citizens (native-born or naturalized). IRs do not have to wait for a visa once they are petitioned for — as soon as the family relationship exists and is verified they can begin the process of applying for an immigrant visa. (Note: IRs are still subject to the grounds of inadmissibility, deportability, and other possible roadblocks. The difference is that they do not have to wait to find out about these problems).

By contrast Preference Immigrants are categorized into different groups such as F-1 (unmarried adult sons and daughters of U.S. ┬ácitizens), F-2A (spouses and unmarried children of Permanent Residents), F-2B (unmarried adult sons and daughters of Permanent Residents), F-3 (married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens), and F-4 (siblings of U.S. citizens). The good thing about being a Preference Immigrant is that you and your children and spouse (usually) can all be included under one visa and when your time comes your “derivative” relatives are eligible too. The bad thing is that the waiting times can be brutal.

Preference Immigrants are subject to annual caps on each of the above five types of visas which total 226,000 per year. Further, each country may have no more than 7 percent of the visas in a given category in a given year. As an example 65,000 of the total worldwide principal visas are allocated for the F-4 category, and no more than 4,550 of these visas may go to natives of the Philippines. Because there are many people in the United States who are of Filipino descent there are more than 4,550 F-4 petitions filed each year. As a result the leftover applications from one year automatically roll over into the next year and take up that year’s allocation of 4,550 visas. Over time we end up with one year’s applicants “cannibalizing” the visas for the next year or two and the line grows and grows and grows.

To illustrate this we look at the F-4 category for the Philippines in the Visa Bulletin for October 2012: for this month the Department of State (which controls the release of visas) is only processing visa requests made on or before February 8, 1989. That’s where we get the 24-year figure (difference between today’s date and the date currently eligible for a visa.) You can explore the rest of the Visa Bulletin to see how backlogged many other categories are.

The Department of State does its best to monitor supply and demand for immigrant visas and to predict which dates should be available for which categories. Sometimes (as in winter 2010-2011) it gets the dates wrong and the available dates jump backward after a few overly optimistic months, and the start of the new fiscal year is a time to recalibrate the system for the new year. A large portion of the immigrant community is watching anxiously for the F-4 category to creep beyond April 30, 2001 because many petitions were filed around this date to take advantage of a law known as Section 245(i). For these and many other families the slow progression of the dates in the Visa Bulletin is another reminder of how patient they must be in order to obtain the desired result from our outdated, confusing, and sometimes broken immigration system. We continue to watch optimistically for signs that our elected officials can find common ground and make some needed changes to this and other aspects of our immigration laws.

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Filed under Family-Based Immigration, National News, Uncategorized