Do’s and Don’ts during retrogression of priority datesBy Lourdes Santos Tancinco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Waiting for United States immigration priority dates to become current takes longer for certain visa applicants. The lengthy wait is worsened by “retrogression of priority dates.” This happens when the visa priority dates are moved backwards instead of forward. It is not unusual to hear of applicants whose decisions in response to these changes jeopardize their future visa issuances.
No good news
The Department of State’s Chief of Visa Control, Charles Oppenheim, recently announced a projected speeding up of priority dates up to July 2012. There is no good news for visa applicants in the family preference categories. Petitions by US citizens for their adult children will move up by approximately three to six weeks per month. US citizen petitions for brothers and sisters will move three to five weeks per month.
Petitions by green card holders for their spouses and children will move forward by two and a half months every month until July.
In the employment-based category, applicants for visas from the Philippines enjoy a priority date that is current for all preference categories except the third preference or the one for both skilled and unskilled workers. Nurses and physical therapists, among others, fall under this third preference category. Oppenheimer projected that there would be an approximate movement of three to five weeks every month until July for this category.
This is still a very slow process considering that they are just issuing visas for petitions filed in 2006 for this category.
The proposed bill in the House that will increase the quota for family-based petitions was not taken up in the Senate and, hence, no law has yet been enacted on this matter. When the House approved the bill sometime in November 2011, most family-based petitioners were excited about the possibility of having the waiting period decreased. No luck. In an election year, it is doubtful whether an immigration bill will be passed into law; more so with a bill that will increase family based visa quotas.
Do’s and don’ts
For those applicants who must stay single to obtain a visa (referring to permanent resident parents petitioning their adult children), marriage is a critical issue. The visa application for those who marry while their petition is still pending is automatically terminated. On the other hand if the petitioner is a US citizen-parent petitioning an unmarried adult child, marriage of the child will result in the downgrading of the petition resulting in a longer wait time.
For these applicants note the following: (1) Do understand the consequence of marriage on your visa petition; (2) Do consider staying single if you really want to pursue your visa petition; (3) Do not engage in “secret marriage,” there is no such thing and it will still have the effect of a marriage; (4) Do not misrepresent yourself as single to the consul if you are already married. They have a way of determining whether you are telling the truth. The consequences of lying will catch up with you when you least expect it. Deportation is a possibility if immigration authorities discover your lie later on.
For children who have already aged out (turned 21 years old) and are left behind while their parents and siblings are in the US, take note of the following:
1) Do spend productive time while waiting by using it to finish your education or get some useful trade skills, or get a job;
2) Do not simply rely on remittances from your parents. Explore ways to be productive yourself;
3) Do not take illegal drugs because this will have a consequence on you future visa application and will bar you from receiving your visa;
4) Do not be tempted by others to engage in fraudulent visa applications and most especially
5) Do not change your name or use an assumed name to try and get a temporary visa.
A petition by US citizens on behalf of their siblings suffer the longest backlogs. For applicants in this category, take note of the following:
1) Do not keep your hopes too high;
2) Do accept that it will take approximately two decades for your visas to become current, and
3) Do spend productive time while waiting as you
may no longer be interested in migrating after a two-decade wait.
Those affected by the retrogression issue are mostly the nurses. The movement of the backlog is only three to five weeks each month and it will take many years before this category becomes current again. For new graduate nurses:
1) Do accept other opportunities from other countries;
2) Do find US petitioners if you can and have them petition you so you have a priority date and you will have a visa petition to look forward to;
3) Do get an advance degree so you can qualify for a higher visa category and you will not have as long a wait for a visa priority date to become current.
Getting a US employer to petition for a nurse may be difficult these days. But the economy is getting better, so who knows?
Sometimes, no matter how bad the situation is, we cannot continue to dwell on the negatives. The US immigration system is certainly far from ideal. Backlogs will be there and may only get worse. But the best advice is not to allow the “waiting” game of visa petitions to take control of your future. There are other legal options and precautions to take. If time is spent productively, then hopefully time will pass quickly.
(Tancinco may be reached at email@example.com or at 887 7177)