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[IWS] CRS: U.S. FAMILY-BASED IMMIGRATION POLICY [19 November 2014]

IWS Documented News Service

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Institute for Workplace Studies-----------------Professor Samuel B. Bacharach

School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies

Cornell University

16 East 34th Street, 4th floor--------------------Stuart Basefsky

New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau

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This service is supported, in part, by donations. Please consider making a donation by following the instructions at http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/iws/news-bureau/support.html

 

Congressional Research Service (CRS)

 

U.S. Family-Based Immigration Policy

William A. Kandel,  Analyst in Immigration Policy

November 19, 2014

http://fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R43145.pdf

[full-text, 41 pages]

 

Summary

Family reunification is a key principle underlying U.S. immigration policy. It is embodied in the

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which specifies numerical limits for five family-based

admission categories, as well as a per-country limit on total family-based admissions. The five

categories include immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and four other family-based categories that

vary according to individual characteristics such as the legal status of the petitioning U.S.-based

relative, and the age, family relationship, and marital status of the prospective immigrant.

 

Of the 990,553 foreign nationals admitted to the United States in FY2013 as lawful permanent

residents (LPRs), 649,763, or 66%, were admitted on the basis of family ties. Of these familybased

immigrants admitted in FY2013, 68% were admitted as immediate relatives of U.S.

citizens. Many of the 990,553 immigrants were initially admitted on a temporary basis and

became immigrants by converting or “adjusting” their status to a lawful permanent resident. The

proportion of family-based immigrants who adjusted their immigration status while residing in

the United States (54%) exceeded that of family-based immigrants who had their immigration

petitions processed while living abroad (46%), although such percentages varied considerably

among the five family-based admission categories.

 

Since FY2000, increasing numbers of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens have accounted for all

of the growth in family-based admissions. Between FY2000 and FY2009, immigrants who

accompanied or later followed principal (qualifying) immigrants averaged 12% of all familybased

admissions annually. During that period, Mexico, the Philippines, China, India, and the

Dominican Republic sent the most family-based immigrants to the United States.

 

Each year, the number of foreign nationals petitioning for LPR status through family-sponsored

preferences exceeds the supply of legal immigrant slots. As a result, a visa queue has accumulated

of foreign nationals who qualify as immigrants under the INA but who must wait for a visa to

immigrate to the United States. As such, the visa queue constitutes not a backlog of petitions to be

processed but, rather, the number of persons approved for visas not yet available due to INAspecified

numerical limits. As of November 1, 2013, the visa queue included 4.2 million persons.

 

Every month, the Department of State (DOS) produces its Visa Bulletin, which lists “cut-off

dates” for each of the four numerically limited family-based admissions categories. Cut-off dates

indicate when petitions that are currently being processed for a numerically limited visa were

initially approved. For most countries, cut-off dates range between 1.5 years and 12.5 years ago.

For countries that send the most immigrants, the range expands to between 2 and 23 years ago.

Interest in immigration reform has increased scrutiny of family-based immigration and revived

debate over its proportion of total lawful permanent admissions. Past or current proposals for

overhauling family-based admissions have been made by numerous observers, including two

congressionally mandated commissions.

 

Those who favor expanding the number of family-based admissions point to this sizable queue of

prospective immigrants who have been approved for lawful permanent residence but must wait

years separated from their U.S.-based family members until receiving a numerically limited

immigrant visa. Their proposals generally emphasize expanding the numerical limits of familybased

categories. Others question whether the United States has an obligation to reconstitute

families of immigrants beyond their nuclear families. Corresponding proposals would eliminate

several family-based preference categories, favoring only those for the immediate relatives of

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. Such proposals reiterate recommendations made by

earlier congressionally mandated commissions on immigration reform.

 

Contents

Current Developments ..................................................................................................................... 1

Overview of Family-Based Immigration ......................................................................................... 2

Evolution of U.S. Family-Based Immigration Policy ...................................................................... 3

Current Laws Governing Overall Admissions ................................................................................. 4

Legal Admissions Limits ........................................................................................................... 4

Per-Country Ceilings ................................................................................................................. 6

Laws Governing Individual Admission ..................................................................................... 7

Procedures for Acquiring Lawful Permanent Residence..................................................... 7

Derivative Admissions ........................................................................................................ 8

Laws Governing Child Admissions ..................................................................................... 9

Conditional Resident Status .............................................................................................. 10

Findings from Earlier Congressionally Mandated Commissions .................................................. 10

Profile of Legal Immigrants ........................................................................................................... 12

Legal Immigration Admission Trends ..................................................................................... 12

Potential Legislative and Policy Issues .......................................................................................... 14

Supply-Demand Imbalance for U.S. Lawful Permanent Residence ........................................ 15

Assessing the Per-Country Ceiling .......................................................................................... 18

Limitations on Visiting U.S. Relatives .................................................................................... 18

Impetus to Violate Immigration Laws ..................................................................................... 19

Aging Out of Legal Status Categories ..................................................................................... 19

Marriage Timing of Immigrant Children ................................................................................. 20

Same-Sex Partners ................................................................................................................... 20

Unaccompanied Alien Children............................................................................................... 21

Broader Immigration Questions ..................................................................................................... 22

Family Reunification versus Family Reconstitution ............................................................... 22

Family Reunification versus Economic Priorities ................................................................... 23

Chain Migration....................................................................................................................... 24

Conclusion ..................................................................................................................................... 26

 

Figures

Figure 1. LPR Admissions by Admission Category, FY2000-FY2013 ......................................... 13

Figure 2. Percent of LPRs Adjusting Status, by Admission Category, FY2000-FY2013 .............. 14

Figure A-1. Region of Birth by Admission Category, FY2000-FY2009 ....................................... 29

 

Tables

Table 1. Numerical Limits of the Immigration and Nationality Act ................................................ 5

Table 2. Actual Family-Sponsored Admissions by Major Class in FY2013.................................... 6

Table 3. Visa Queue of Prospective Family-Preference Immigrants with Approved Applications, for Selected Countries, as of November 1, 2013 ................................. 15

Table 4. Visa Bulletin Cut-Off Dates for Family-Based Petitions, November 2014 ..................... 17

Table A-1. Principal and Derivative Immigrants, by Admission Category, FY2000-FY2009 ......................................................................................................................... 28

Table A-2. Age Distribution and Median Age of Immigrants by Class of Admission, FY2000-FY2009 ......................................................................................................................... 30

Table A-3. Occupational Status of Immigrants by Admission Category, FY2000-FY2009 .......... 31

Table B-1. Annual Number of Lawful Permanent Admissions by Major Class, FY2002-FY2013 ....................................................................................................................................... 32

Table B-2. Percentages of Annual Lawful Permanent Admissions by Major Class, FY2002-FY2013 ......................................................................................................................... 34

Table B-3. Key Proportions for Annual Lawful Permanent Admissions, FY2002-FY2013 ......... 35

 

Appendixes

Appendix A. Demography of Family Based Immigrants .............................................................. 28

Appendix B. Admissions Figures for FY2002-FY2013 ................................................................ 32

 

Contacts

Author Contact Information........................................................................................................... 36

 

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This information is provided to subscribers, friends, faculty, students and alumni of the School of Industrial & Labor Relations (ILR). It is a service of the Institute for Workplace Studies (IWS) in New York City. Stuart Basefsky is responsible for the selection of the contents which is intended to keep researchers, companies, workers, and governments aware of the latest information related to ILR disciplines as it becomes available for the purposes of research, understanding and debate. The content does not reflect the opinions or positions of Cornell University, the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, or that of Mr. Basefsky and should not be construed as such. The service is unique in that it provides the original source documentation, via links, behind the news and research of the day. Use of the information provided is unrestricted. However, it is requested that users acknowledge that the information was found via the IWS Documented News Service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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