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Green Card Applicants Must Wait Even Longer According to February 2011 Visa Bulletin

In a few earlier posts, I discussed how the permanent immigration quota system works, or doesn’t work because of its impact on illegal immigration. In my recent post, Why Don’t They Just Come Legally? – Myths Part II, I mention that two of the causes of illegal immigration are due to there being no lines for legal visas to get into in the first place because there are no categories for certain employment and family categories. And, in cases where there are applicable categories, the lines can be very, very long – decades in some cases. In my post on the Anchor Babies and the 14th Amendment – Myths Part I, now called the “birthright citizenship” movement devoted to repealing the 14th Amendment, I discuss how American born kids can’t sponsor their parents or siblings until they are 21, and even then, at least for siblings, they have to endure the quota backlogs. Finally, in an article on the DREAM Act, I showed how the last proposal before Congress added 10 years to the DREAM Act process. As a result, the beneficiaries would have to wait 10 years to become a U.S. citizen before they could even start the process of sponsoring relatives. The sibling quota delays would add another 10-20 years to the process. Well, now the February issue of the U.S. State Department’s monthly Visa Bulletin really demonstrates just how bad the quotas can get based on demand and small supply of available green cards or visas.

The term “retrogression” in the Visa Bulletin refers to the quota getting longer or the line moving backwards rather than advancing forward toward being current. For years, ALL of the family based preference categories, which do not include spouses, parents or minor children of U.S. citizens, have been subject to lengthy backlogs, regardless of country of birth. Siblings of U.S. citizens are always the worst, and if the person immigrating is from China, India, Mexico or the Philippines, or the Dominican Republic, the quotas are the worst of all. Starting in January, the family based quota retrogressed for most people in most categories which means demand has increased.

In the employment based immigration context, foreign investors and creme-de-la-creme employees (those that are world renown or hold advance degrees) typically have no backlogs unless the person is from India or China. Everyone else immigrating based on a job requiring limited work experience or a bachelors degree is subject to a quota delay with Indians having the longest wait. Most Indian and Chinese nationals are here on H-1B temporary work visas because of strong hiring trends several years ago, but because demand is high, they have longer waits, and for many of them, their H-1Bs will run out before they reach the front of the line of the quota. Many have already gone home because of better opportunities abroad. Accordingly, many experts view the employment quota backlog situation in America as a cause for concern about an outbound brain drain.

Starting next month, the the February 2011 Visa Bulletin has a new column for people from the Dominican Republic. Evidently, there is high demand by Dominicans but insufficient visas in both family and employment based immigration categories. Permanent residence (green card) levels were set by Congress over 20 years ago according to a complicated formula. A general idea about how the numbers are allocated is described in the The Operation of the Immigrant Numerical Control System. Briefly, visas are allocated by per category limits which are then allocated by per country limits. Then there are rules about spillovers from one category to another. Demand for visa numbers can fluctuate from one month to another, with the inevitable impact on cut-off dates. A person’s place in line in the quota or backlog is called their priority date, which is established when the government receives the first application type that starts the immigration process in that category.

On any given day around the world at U.S. consulates abroad, and within the U.S. at USCIS offices around the country, people are having interviews for their green cards. Therefore, the monthly Visa Bulletin reports are estimates for the month based on actual usage in the prior month (USCIS and consulates reporting visas granted). Sometimes people start the process in one category, but may end up immigrating in another later on. Or sometimes people start the process and decide not to pursue a green card after all. And finally, some people get all the way to their interview but are determined not to be qualified. Rumor has it that there is one person at the State Department who makes the estimates and is an expert on this subject. But, heaven help us if he gets hit by a truck. Who will really understand it once he’s not around?

Here is the State Department’s explanation for the February 2011 Dominican Republic situation and retrogression in the backlogs for China and India:

Continued heavy applicant demand for numbers in the Family Fourth preference [siblings of adult U.S. citizens] category has required the retrogression of the Worldwide, China-mainland born, Dominican Republic, and India cut-off date for the month of February.

It has also been necessary to retrogress the Dominican Republic F2B [adult children of permanent resident parents] category for the month of February.

Further retrogressions cannot be ruled out should demand continue at the current levels for some categories and countries.

Please Note: Applicants entitled to immigrant status become documentarily qualified at their own initiative and convenience. By no means has every applicant with a priority date earlier than a prevailing cut-off date been processed for final visa action. On the contrary, visa allotments are made only on the basis of the total applicants reported documentarily qualified each month, compared with the amount of available numbers. For example, during the past month, over 17,300 of the applicants who have become documentarily qualified in the Family preference categories have priority dates earlier than the cut-off dates established for January.
Following are examples of possible cut-off date actions based on demand:
Numbers Available/ Demand with Priority dates Prior to the Current Cut-Off/ Next Month’s Cut-Off Date Will:
3,000 1,000 Advance 3,000 3,000 Remain the same 3,000 5,000 Retrogress