Where exactly is the "back of the line" for waiting immigrants?
February 11, 2013. A recent radio news story asked listeners to imagine the so-called “line” for Green Cards as an airport waiting area full of people waiting for flights on “Family-Based Visa Airways”. But there is more than one line to the gate.
People who are being sponsored by immediate relatives who are U.S. citizens (such as a spouse, child under or parent) may go straight to the gate. All others must wait varying times depending on their relationship to their sponsor, their age and marital status, and/or their nationality.
Potential immigrants from Mexico and the Philippines may face a line snaking out the door and around the airport – 1000 times. In fact, the line for a Mexican national over 21 who is the son or daughter of a U.S. citizen parent is over 100 years. This estimate is based both on the number of people currently in this particular line, and the speed with which the line is moving.
The bottleneck is a yearly cap on family-based visas, with individual quotas for China, India, Philippines and Mexico – the four countries with the highest demand for immigrant visas.
Sometimes, when too many applicants are allowed into the jetway at once, the line can actually move backwards. The technical term for this phenomenon is “visa retrogression”. Retrogression, when it happens, is always a terrible shock, and many immigrants with pending applications wonder how it can happen.
Recent statements by leading Senators and President Obama have proposed that newly-legalized undocumented aliens (if they qualify) should be sent to the “back of the line” for permanent residence. Unless there are increases in the annual visa quotas, many may never reach the jetway for their flight home.