Immigration reform: the time to sponsor siblings and married children is now!Posted on Tuesday, May 28, 2013
On May 21st, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (“BSEOIMA”) to the Senate floor for a vote. The Senate plans to begin its debate on the bill in early June. A number of amendments will likely be considered before a final vote is taken.
As it currently stands, BSEOIMA proposes some very significant changes to both family and employment-based immigration. Overall, it expands the opportunities for immigration through employment while eliminating certain options for sponsorship of relatives. There are some important implications for immigrant citizens and those who are eligible for citizenship now.
If BSEOIMA is enacted in its present form, U.S. citizens would no longer be able to file immigrant petitions for their siblings or married adult children over 30. Specifically, the current sibling category known as F-4 would be eliminated 18 months after the bill is signed into law. At the same time, an age cap of 31 would be placed on the F-3 category for married adult children.
Fortunately, those already waiting for visa numbers in F-3 and F-4 would not be affected by this change. Moreover, the bill authorizes clearing of the long backlogs in all immigrant visa categories over an 8-year period. Country-specific visa limits for family-based immigration would be expanded, and unused visa numbers would be recaptured to enable those who are waiting in line to enter the United States more quickly.
If you have been thinking of filing an I-130 Immigrant Petition for a sibling or a married adult child over 30, we believe that the time to act is now. Once the new law has been in place for 18 months, the only immigration option left for these family members would be a new points-based merit system that favors education, employment and job skills. The new system would grant only a few points for a close relationship with a U.S. citizen.
Happily, there are many aspects of the proposed reforms that would promote family re-unification within our immigrant communities. For the first time, spouses and minor children of Green Card holders would be classified as “immediate relatives”. These individuals would be able to apply for their immigrant visas as soon as their I-130s are approved. Also, permanent residents would be able to obtain a fiancé visa in the same way that U.S. citizens can today.
The BSEOIMA also proposes a new “V” visa enabling family members living abroad with approved I-130s to live and work in the U.S. while waiting for their Green Card. Other family members, including siblings, would be allowed to visit their relatives in the U.S. for up to 60 days per year. Today, such family members find it very difficult to obtain a visa to visit the U.S.
Another important provision of the immigration reform package relates to the “aging out” of children from immigrant petitions filed for their parents. The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) of 2000 was intended to give certain young adults credit for the time they had already waited in line as dependent children. However, USCIS has interpreted the language of the CSPA so narrowly that it has only applied to a few of its potential beneficiaries.
In the BSEOIMA, the CSPA’s provisions have been spelled out in the clearest possible terms so they cannot be misinterpreted. The bill specifies that if a son or daughter “ages out” of an immigrant petition filed on a parent’s behalf, the aged-out child would be entitled to retain their original priority date and apply it to a subsequent petition filed by a parent.
Despite these positive developments, the loss of the F-4 category and the age cap on the F-3 category will come as a blow to many families. While there is no certainty that the BSEOIMA will be approved by both chambers of Congress and signed into law, the continued forward momentum in Washington is certainly encouraging.
In recent years, some U.S. citizens have hesitated to file petitions for siblings or married sons and daughters due to the very long wait for visa availability. Eligible Green Card holders who have not taken steps to naturalize can only sponsor spouses and minor or unmarried children. Now there is a strong possibility that certain relatives previously able to immigrate will no longer have that option in the future. To keep the door open for these family members, we advise eligible permanent residents to file immediately for their citizenship. Those who are already U.S. citizens should move forward with I-130 petitions for these relatives as soon as possible.