Family Based Immigration is at Risk – Act Now to Provide an Option for Adult children, Parents and Siblings

Current law allows a U.S. citizen to file a visa petition to obtain residence for parents, spouses, minor children, adult children (married and unmarried) and siblings. Current law also allows a legal permanent resident to file for spouses, minor children and unmarried adult children. Except for “immediate relatives” defined as parents, spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, all categories of relative petitions have a waiting list. This means that once a U.S. citizen or resident files a visa petition for a relative, the relative must wait to apply for residence.

The length of the waiting list depends on the category of relative (preference category) and the country of birth of the relative. Preference Relatives from China, India, Mexico and Philippines face longer waits than citizens from all other countries. The reason that relative from these countries face longer wait times than everyone else is that in addition to dealing with the overall annual limit for relative petitions, there is a per-country limit set at 7% of the total annual family and employment based preference limits. The only countries that reach this limit are China, India, Mexico and the Philippines. The other countries are in the same category for the waiting list known as “All Chargeability Areas.”

For relatives from the All Chargeability Areas, the waiting list for unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens is backlogged to December of 2010. This means in August of 2017, that the U.S. citizen parent must have filed for their child prior to December of 2010 for the child to apply for residence. The waiting list for married adult children of U.S. citizens is backlogged to July 2005 and the waiting list for siblings of U.S. citizens is backlogged to May of 2004. For a U.S. legal permanent resident to file for his/her spouse or minor children, this category is backlogged to September 2015. These dates are not typos – they really must wait this long and things now look as if they may get worse.

On August 2nd President Trump announced the RAISE Act (Reforming American Immigration for a strong Economy) which seeks to cut legal immigration in half and to eliminate the ability of a U.S citizen to file for their parents, adult children and siblings. Legal permanent residents would only be able to file for spouses and minor children and not for unmarried adult children.

While the RAISE act may not pass, it may be time to act defensively and file whatever relative petitions you can NOW. Even if the proposed law is enacted, there is likely to be a “Grandfather provision” which means that if you file for an adult child, parent or a sibling prior to the time the law passes, that the petition may be allowed to proceed to residence.

Linda M Kaplan
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