Who Has To Wait the Longest for Visas?
Some immigrants wait in line for decades to receive a visa to live and work in the U.S.
You may have heard that wait times for many immigrants coming to the United States are long. Undoubtedly, the barrier has caused some undocumented immigrants to enter the country without authorization. But just how long are wait times actually?
The answer depends on who you are — what country you’re from, whether or not you’re closely related to a U.S. citizen, and whether or not you can fill demand for certain types of labor needs.
According to the visa bulletin for January, released by U.S. Department of State last month, the agency has an extreme backlog for some groups, such as family-sponsored visas from certain countries. Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens from the Philippines have the the longest wait lines of all family-sponsored visa applicants. To date, the agency is just now issuing visas to individuals that applied in April 1989. That’s almost 23 years ago. And some unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico have been waiting since July 1993 for a visa.
Check out the wait times for other family-sponsored visas:
(F1 includes “unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens,” F2A includes “spouses and children of permanent residents”, F2B includes unmarried sons and daughters who are 21 and older, F3 includes married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and F4 includes brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens)
Southern California Public Radio explained why theses wait-time differences exist:
“The United States allots every nation the same percentage of visas from a pool of family and employer-based visas available each year. But there is far greater demand in some nations….This means that hopeful immigrants in these countries compete for the same number of available visas as people in countries where there is less demand. Thus, they wait longer.”
But, sometimes it doesn’t matter where you’re from — as long as you’re super-duper qualified or have some money to invest. For example, for top priority highly skilled laborers, who are determined to be outstanding researchers, professors or business executives, there is no wait time for immigrants from any countries. Problem is, some of these visas are very very difficult to obtain, requiring items like proof of receipt of major prizes and awards for outstanding achievement in the applicant’s field of expertise. But that even doesn’t always work.
Alex Nowrasteh, and immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, says that there are 40,000 top priority visas available each year, but far fewer of such visas are typically distributed “because the requirements are so high.” Candidates that fail to meet requirements for the top priority employer-sponsored visas are pushed into the second and third priority groups.
Another catch is that only seven percent of employer-sponsored visas can come from any one country. As a result, for second-priority professionals, like those with advanced degrees or specialized knowledge, there is only a wait for Chinese and Indian immigrants, of four and seven years, respectively. For some other immigrants, including “immigrant investors” or employees of the U.S. government abroad, there is also no wait time from any country. But again, meeting the requirements to obtain these visas is no easy feat.
Check out the full breakdown here.
The countries with the highest number of waiting list registrants include Mexico, the Philippines, India, Vietnam and China. Check out this infographic from ColorLines analysis of the 2010 data for visa data.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images/Martin Barraud)