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Harsh reality of waiting 24 years before being reunited with siblings

WITH NUMEROUS petitions being filed and limited number of visas available, it is taking several years for visas to be available on approved petitions. For Filipinos who are waiting for visas, the wait can take longer than two decades.

Bernadette is a US citizen and has one sister in Manila who recently became a widow. Bernadette wants to petition her sister so they can live in the United States together during their twilight years. Bernadette is now 69 years old and her sister is just a year younger.

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Bernadette was informed that she can file a petition for her sister and it will be approved in a year. She filed the immigrant petition. The petition was approved with a priority date of 2014. Bernadette was excited but was told that the visa will not be issued to her sister until after 24 years. Why is it taking so long for family petitions to be processed?

Modernizing visa system

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For Filipino nationals, the waiting period ranges from 2 to 24 years. Petition by green card holders for their spouse and minor children is currently taking around two years while petitions by US citizens for their siblings is currently around 24 years.

There is no uniformity in the movement of the priority date for each preference category in any given year. For instance for sibling petitions, in 2013, the priority date under the fourth preference category was 1989; and, moved to 1990 in 2014; and, is now 1991 currently for 2015.

Under the first preference category of unmarried adult children of US citizens, the priority dates moved faster in the last three years from 1999 in 2013 to currently 2005 priority date this year of 2015.

Not included in these preference categories are petitions for minor children, spouse or parents of US citizens, which have immediate visa availability.

With the way the preference family-based petitions are moving, families remain separated for a long time. This is the reason why there is a need to modernize and streamline the US visa system.

US President Barack Obama’s executive action of Nov. 20, 2014 did not just address the issue of the undocumented. It also included his directive to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to develop policies that will ensure that the visas made available by Congress are made consistent with the demands.

It also directed these agencies to see if unused visas may be recaptured so that they will add to the total number.

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It is similar to the “auditing” process of determining the number of visas that have not been used and whether these numbers may be put back to the numerical visa quotas. One of the interesting recommendations is that the visas for derivatives should not be counted toward the numerical quota.

Unless there is a change in the policy or an amendment by Congress, the family-based petitioning process will remain a dysfunctional system incompatible with family reunification, which is the policy behind immigration.

In the case of Bernadette, since she is now 69 years old, filing a petition now for her sister will result in their reunification when she is already 93 years old. Sadly, this is the ludicrous reality of the sibling petitions.

(The author may be reached at [email protected] or at 1-888-930-0808 in the US or [02] 721-1963 in Manila or visit her website at www.tancinco.com, facebook.com/tancincolaw.)

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