Las Vegas Sun

May 27, 2015

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Las Vegas Sol:

Immigration ‘lines’ vary widely in length

4 million people awaiting word from government

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Source: U.S. Department of State

The U.S. Department of State monthly visa bulletin showing wait times for various classes of family-sponsored visas. This bulletin for Feb. 2013 shows the Filipino brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens have wait times over two decades.

With immigration reform's rise to the top of the agenda on Capitol Hill, there has been much discussion about immigrants residing in the country illegally "getting in line."

President Barack Obama, echoing other politicians, said in his Jan. 29 speech on immigration at Las Vegas' Del Sol High School that such immigrants must follow a process "that includes passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English and then going to the back of the line, behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally."

Immigrants who are waiting for visa approval, the argument goes, should be processed ahead of immigrants who either crossed the border illegally, overstayed their visa or wound up in the country without a legal residency status by some other manner.

As many observers of the immigration system have pointed out, there are many different immigration lines with varying wait times.

The February U.S. Department of State visa bulletin for just family-sponsored visas makes this all too clear.

Unmarried offspring of U.S. citizens who come from Mexico and applied for a residency visa in 1993 are just now having their applications reviewed. Filipino brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens who first applied for a visa in 1989 are moving to the front of the line this year.

While employment-based visas generally have shorter waits, there are still some categories of foreign workers who will wait for more than a decade, the visa bulletin shows.

The U.S. currently sees the most migration from China, India, the Philippines and Mexico, and therefore applicants from those countries experience the longest waits. Nevada has approximately 500,000 foreign-born residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The countries listed the most under the U.S. Census Bureau's "race and ethnicity" section for Nevada residents are, in order, Mexico, the Philippines and China.

A recent National Public Radio story notes the estimated number of people in line for all classes of residency visas is 4 million.

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