I have been following the comments on my first blog post very carefully and I am gratified that we are having such a vigorous discussion about immigration.
I apologize for the delay in posting my second blog. I was having some technical difficulties which have been resolved.
In future posts I shall address the following issues: the border, immigrants and welfare benefits; immigrants and crimes; immigrants and the economy; birth-right citizenship; who are the DREAMERS and what benefits do they receive; the Republicans’ immigration plan; and, Obama’s immigration plan.
I would like to thank one reader who pointed out that I made an error in my previous posting where I stated, “immigration laws were much less strict (unless you were Asian) and until the 1930s it was easy to immigrate to the United States.” In fact, the Quota Act of 1921 restricted immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe. The Quota Act of 1921, in conjunction with the Chinese Exclusion Act (and other acts that precluded immmigration from other Asian countries) limited immigration to the United States in the 1920s. I appreciate having such an educated readership.
United States Citizen: A person who was born in the United States, or has one or more parents who are United States citizens; or who naturalized (applied for and received U.S. citizenship)
Lawful Permanent Resident: A person who has immigrated to the United States and has a green card. A lawful permanent resident can live and work in the United States permanently (as long as he or she is not convicted of certain crimes); he or she can bring certain family members to the United States as lawful permanent residents; and after either three or five years, she or he can apply for citizenship
Non-immigrant visas: Visas that allow people to visit, work, or attend school in the United States for a set period of time
Undocumented Immigrants: People living in the United States without proper immigration status
To have an intelligent conversation about U.S. immigration policy, we have to start with the numbers. Who can immigrate to the United States? How many people legally immigrate to the United States each year? How long does a person have to wait to immigrate to the United States? And, can a person wait in the United States for his or her visa to become available?
Using figures from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2011 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: Office of Immigration Statistics, see www.dhs.gov/files/statistics/publications/LPR10.shtm, and the U.S. Department of State, www.travel.state.gov, I created the following table.
You can go to these websites to look at these data. These tables show who legally immigrated to the United States in 2011 and what the wait is for each type of immigrant visa. In this post, I shall discuss the numbers for family-based immigration; which family members can legally immigrate to the United States and how long it takes.
Most people cannot stay in, or even visit the United States while they are waiting for their immigrant visas to become available. To qualify for most non-immigrant visas (e.g. visitor visas, student visas, temporary worker visas) the applicant must show that she or he does not intend to immigrate. If an applicant has applied for an immigrant visa and is waiting for the visa to become available, the government generally does not allow the person in to the United States until his or her immigrant visa becomes available.
There are a few exceptions to this policy. One of the most common ones is for persons who have certain non-immigrant professional worker visas. They are allowed to continue living and working in the United States until their immigrant visa becomes available. Often you will meet immigrants who first came to the United States on a student visa; upon graduation they got a job and their employer applied for and obtained a non-immigrant professional worker visa; and after several years an employer applied for and obtained an immigrant professional worker visa. This process takes several years.
Several years ago a friend of mine who is an engineer from England became a U.S. citizen. After he became a citizen, we talked about the ceremony. He was very concerned that so many immigrants could bring all of their family to the United States. I held myself back from asking him what he was talking about. Instead, I asked him who he thought he could bring to the United States now that he was a U.S. citizen. He thought that he could bring his parents (true), his grandparents (false), his siblings (true), his spouse (true), his children (true),
and his aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren (false, false, false, false, false and false). The chart posted below lists the only
people who can immigrate to the United States through a family member.
People who wish to immigrate to the United States often have two choices. They can either remain in their home country until their immigrant visa becomes
available, or they live in the United States in undocumented status. Some people stay here because they do not want to tear their family apart; and, some people stay here because if they leave they will not be able to return for a minimum of 10 years even with a current visa. Many of the undocumented immigrants in the United States live in mixed families where the spouse is a lawful permanent resident or a U.S. citizen, and some of the children might be U.S. citizens while others might be undocumented.
To summarize the information about the numbers of immigrants to the United States, in 2011, more than one million people, or 1,062,040 people legally immigrated to the United States. The numbers in the charts will not completely add up because I did not include some of the more obscure ways to immigrate to the United States because those numbers are too small to make a significant difference. Here is a chart of which family members immigrated to the United States, how long the wait is to immigrate, and how many people immigrated to the United States as family members in 2011:
Immigrating Through A Family Member
Who can immigrate?
How many people immigrated in this category in 2011?
How long is the wait for this category?
Spouses of U.S. citizens; parents of adult U.S. citizens; and minor, unmarried children of U.S. citizens
There is no wait for this category
Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their minor children
If the immigrant is from Mexico, the wait is about 20 years; if the immigrant is from the Philippines, the wait is about 15 years; if the immigrant is from any other country the wait is about seven years
Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children
If the immigrant is from Mexico, the wait is about 20 years; if the immigrant is from the Philippines, the wait is about 21 years; if the immigrant is from any other country, the wait is about 11 years
Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters of green-card holders
The wait for spouses and minor children is about 2.5 years for immigrants from all countries; the wait for unmarried sons and daughters (21 years old and older) varies with the country. Unmarried sons and daughters from Mexico have to wait about 20 years; unmarried sons and daughter from the Philippines have to wait about 11 years; and unmarried sons and daughters from any other country the wait is about 8 years
Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. Citizens and their spouses and minor children
If the immigrant is from the Philippines the wait is about 24.5 years; if the immigrant is from Mexico, the wait is about 16.5 years; if the immigrant is from any other country the wait is about 12 years.
Next week: The Waiting Game Part II: Immigrating Through an Employer And Other Ways To Immigrate