Understanding the Family-Based Immigration
Backlog

For multiple reasons, the immigration court system in the United States has long been struggling with a big pile of family-based immigration cases, keeping immigrants in a never-ending legal limbo. According
to the latest data from the U.S. State Department, the backlog of cases and immigrant visa applicants
has reached the highest point ever. More than 1.6 million immigrants are awaiting entry to the U.S.
desiring to become lawful permanent residents.
Changing politics, the global pandemic, and economic modifications have much to do with the legal
immigration system and how it works. If it has been a constant challenge for you and your family
members to fight the immigration battle, going back and forth with judges, it is time to take things to
the next level.
In this post, we will guide you through the immigration process, share recent announcements published
in the Federal Register by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and address some of the critical
questions you have. We will also offer you a solution to end the agony and have a happy ending with
your family.

Immigration Law Explained

Whether you’ve just started your immigration journey or are planning to apply to the National Visa
Center, it is essential to understand how U.S. immigration works and what the process includes. For
example, if you want to move with your family members to the United States permanently, you must
meet specific requirements, pay government fees, and have the application approved.

Immigrant vs. Nonimmigrant Visas

If you want to immigrate to the United States, you will need to obtain a green card and relocate
permanently. A green card or lawful permanent residence allows unrestricted movement and
employment.
However, not everyone is qualified for an immigrant visa, and applying for United States citizenship can
be time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, many people, instead of applying for an immigrant visa,
apply for a temporary visa to work, travel, or study in the United States. Such visas are nonimmigrant
visas and are often renewable.

How Does the National Visa Center and Immigration Services Work for Immigrant Visa Applicants?

The goals of the immigration system in the United States are the reunification of families, protection of refugees, and admission of immigrants with skills valuable to the local economy. The body of law supporting U.S immigration policy is known as the INA or Immigration and Nationality Act. The policy allows the U.S to grant up to 675,000 permanent residencies each year across various family-preference categories and other groups. Besides those 675,000 immigrant visas, the INA does not set limits on the annual admission of residents’ parents, spouses, and children under the age of 21.

When immigrant visa applicants get approval, they become lawful permanent residents and are eligible to apply for jobs. Let’s look at the different visa options available.

Family-Based Immigration: Immediate Relatives

The family-based immigration system allows lawful permanent residents to bring their family members or immediate relatives to the country. Prospective immigrants to family-based green cards must meet the following requirements:

You are an immediate relative if you are:

  • The spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • The unmarried child under 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen
  • The parent of a U.S. citizen (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older)

Family Preference Categories

You are a Family Preference Immigrant if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • First preference (F1) – Unmarried adult children (21 years of age and older) of U.S. citizens
  • Second preference (F2A) – Spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents
  • Second preference (F2B) – Unmarried children (21 years of age and older) of lawful permanent residents
  • Third preference (F3) – Married adult children of U.S. citizens
  • Fourth preference (F4) – Siblings of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age and older)

The family preference category has limited visa availability. A prospective family member eligible for a green card must meet standard criteria, age, and financial requirements.

In addition, whether you want to apply for a family petition for immediate relatives or unmarried sons, daughters, or parents, you must contact the family-based immigration system, establish the legitimacy of the relationship, and sign an affidavit.

Employment-Based Immigration

The United States grants employment authorization to immigrants with valuable skills to enter the country on a temporary or permanent basis.

Temporary employment-based immigrants can apply for specific jobs and positions for a limited period. The U.S. issues more than 20 types of temporary employment-based green cards, including a visa for intracompany transfers; various visas for entertainers, athletes, and skilled performers; visas for religious workers, diplomatic employees; and more.

The employment-based visas and the classifications vary in duration, eligibility requirements, and other factors.

Refugee Immigration

Refugees and asylum seekers can apply for visa interviews and a green card based on the inability to return to their home countries. The common reason they can’t return to their home country is due to a membership in a particular social group, race, religion, or political opinion. They apply for admission from outside the U.S., from a transition country.

The application process is simple, but the admission can vary based on various factors, including whether or not they have family-based immigrants in the United States, the type of risk they face, and their membership in a group.

Each year, the U.S. President, in consultation with the State Department and Congress, establishes an annual limit for refugee admissions.

U.S Citizenship

In order for someone to qualify for U.S. citizenship, they must have lawful permanent resident status and a green card for at least five years. Other exceptions exist, including for members of the U.S. military who serve in designated hostilities.

All applicants must be at least 18 years old, demonstrate exceptional moral character, and have continuous residency. They also must pass U.S. history, take English exams, and pay application fees.

Green Card Requirements: How to Apply for U.S. Citizenship

For most green card applications, you would need to pass a background check and a medical exam. For the background check, you will have to submit a police report from your previous address and answer questions about former convictions (if any). For the medical exam, you must provide information about your mental health, history of diseases, and use of drugs and alcohol.

The application requirements may vary based on the specific visa you apply for. Instead of waiting for the cut-off date, it is better to prepare the documents for your application ahead of time. That way, you can be ready to file when the Visa Bulletin releases final action dates and shows that a green card option is available to you.

The Visa Bulletin is an official announcement regarding U.S. immigration published by the Department of State. The purpose of the Visa Bulletin is to provide a waiting list or priority date for immigrants.

How Much Do Green Cards Cost?

The total cost of applying for family-based U.S. green cards is approximately $1,900 for an applicant living in the U.S. and less than $1,500 for those who live abroad. The costs include mandatory fees and charges for necessary medical examinations.

The costs for applying for employment visas vary based on the preference category you apply for. For most preference categories, you can expect to pay from $1,200 to $1,300 for your application, but the employer could face labor certification costs and filing fees of up to $10,000.

The filing fees are non-refundable. Therefore, whether you apply for minor children, parents, or spouses, it is essential to have reliable legal representation to avoid processing delays and ensure a priority date as soon as possible.

What Does the Immigrant Visa Backlog Report Mean?

The Biden Administration is looking for a way to overhaul the U.S. immigration court system, expand applications and protections to thousands of immigrants, and restructure the asylum process in the U.S.

However, the backlog in applications could jeopardize the system as a whole and the overall success of Biden’s plan. Much of the backlog is a consequence of the global pandemic, which forced immigrants to wait for months for a final action date.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association and experts in family-based and employment-based categories believe that the backlog that existed in the fiscal year in 2018 could double in 2022.

The State Department waits for approval for in-person interviews and consular posts and hopes that the green card process will go faster and more smoothly as the COVID pandemic starts to diminish. However, although the Department of State reopened offices around the country to speed up the process for foreign nationals, no significant changes have occurred.

Case backlogs can trap family-based immigrants, minor children, unmarried adult children, parents, and spouses in limbo for years, with significant implications for their family members. Given the situation, many immigrants living in the U.S. have been forced to leave their jobs. They are currently looking for other options.

Backlogs in Immigration Court

Applicants also face obstacles in court, where immigration has been in an upward swing for years, especially between the fiscal year 2008 and 2016. The number of pending cases varies from 200,000 cases to about 500,000 cases, and an average wait time is from 430 to 670 days. Becoming a U.S. citizen is a time-consuming and challenging process, but this is unacceptable for many families.

Waiting for priority dates, court dates, and an immigration review may lead to family separation. While individuals understand that the U.S. Department of State and consulates abroad do everything to process the applications, they don’t have the patience to wait for up to two years to become U.S. citizens.

Backlog Consequence: Slowed Immigration

Fewer approved petitions and slow processing have affected the overall immigration pace in the United States. In 2022, immigration levels are at the lowest post, with temporary visas dropping by more than 50%. Visas for new lawful permanent residents or green card holders have also dropped by 48%.

The number of approved petitions and constant delays mean that it may take months to process work permits, a delay that has severe consequences on foreign workers and their families. As a result, some international students have been banned from post-graduation jobs.

The most unfortunate casualty of the delays was DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival applicants eligible to apply between December 2020 and July 2021. Unfortunately, processing delays and legal interruptions prevented most of these applicants from registering.

Promising Changes

From the Department of State, the Bureau of Consular Affairs, and Homeland Security, we can expect to see new policies and practices to address some of the current backlogs. The important thing is that the U.S. agencies do everything in their power to enhance the process and make the procedure as simple as possible for potential U.S. citizens.

For example, in the next year, the State Department will waive the requirements for in-person interviews for green-card applicants who have already been interviewed and issued documents but were unable to move to the U.S. because of the pandemic.

The agency will also waive in-person interviews for exchange visitors, students, and high-skilled immigrants who have been approved for green cards or would not have required them.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has also taken steps to improve efficiency, starting from extending work permit validity from one to two years for refugees and parolees. They have also shortened the list of criteria for refugee immigrants needing to undergo an interview while applying for visas.

Reliable and Experienced Immigration Attorney: We Make the Immigration Process Quick and Easy

Whether you are in removal proceedings, waiting for a court date, or wondering where to start with your immigration application, we can help. At The Costas Network Law Center, we understand the struggles and worries people go through when applying for a visa or green card. We maintain an excellent attorney-client relationship, keep the process quick and simple, and allow families to live better lives.

Our team of reliable and knowledgeable lawyers knows what it means to be separated from your family, live in fear of being deported, or drive without a license. You are going through a difficult time, and we are here to provide you with the help you need without spending all of your life spendings.

Each lawyer on our team maintains clear communication with each client, explains the process, and provides various legal strategies for each case. Call us at The Costas Network Law Center today at (216) 616-3103 to schedule a free consultation and share your story. We are here to help you achieve the American Dream.

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