Visa Backlog Puts Lives on Hold for Years

From the Houston Chronicle:

Many anti-immigrant activists blast undocumented workers for cutting ahead of the long lines of waiting visa applicants, but those arguing for more liberal immigration say the queue is moving so slowly it encourages people to enter the country without permission, or to stay longer than their visas allow. . .

And although the immigration system is complex, the basic problem is simple: There are many more immigrants wanting to enter than the number of visas available each year under a quota and preference system implemented by Congress. . .

Currently, the law gives preference to four categories of immigrants who are related to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, as well as to immigrants needed for employment.

However, except for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, there is an annual limit for each category, as well as a quota for each country.

So those from countries that have historically sent large numbers of immigrants — Mexico, India, China and the Philippines, for instance — face lengthy waits for visas to become available for relatives.

"If your brother sponsors you, it's 20 years," said veteran Houston immigration lawyer Gordon Quan. "If an employer sponsors you and you have a bachelor's degree, it's three years. And for people from India, it's seven years."

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Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund