Congress has proposed a new democratic immigration bill recently to limit the allocation of family based green cards. The bill would essentially eliminate the current sibling category and create restrictions on married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. According to the recent article, the intention of these changes lies in the current status of the U.S. economy. The bill is meant to limit the amount of family visas in order to increase the quantity of employment-based visas available to skilled professionals.

What Are the Family-Based Green Cards?

A family-based green card is one where a beneficiary obtains a green card through his or her sponsoring family member. The type of green card that is available to you will depend on your relationship with the sponsoring family member as well as whether your sponsor is a U.S. citizen or a green card holder. It’s always good to know what types of green cards are available before being able to understand the changes that are being proposed to this broad category of immigrant visas.

There are two main groups for these family-based green cards: those immediate relatives and those for nonimmediate relatives.

Immediate Relative Green Card

As the name suggests, this group is extended to those that qualify as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. The major advantage to this category is the fact that there are no final action dates listed for it in the Department of State’s monthly visa bulletin. This means that there is no waiting period between your petition’s approval and your ability to adjust your status.

Below are the immediate relative (IR) green cards:

  • IR-1: for the spouses of citizens of the U.S.
  • IR-2: for the unmarried children of U.S. citizens. These children must be under the age of 21.
  • IR-3: for orphans that have been adopted overseas and are being brought into the U.S.
  • IR-4: for orphans that are being brought to the U.S. but have not yet been adopted.
  • IR-5: for the parent of a U.S. citizen. The citizen sponsor must be over 21 years old.

Non-Immediate Relative Green Card

For those family members that are not considered “immediate” family members by the USCIS, there are the non-immediate green cards that you will find in the visa bulletin. These do have final action dates, meaning that you will need to wait until your priority date (the date that the USCIS receives your petition) matches the final action date in the bulletin before you can adjust your status. Unfortunately, these waiting times can be years long and sometimes even decades.

Below are the non-immediate relative green cards:

  • F-1: these are for the unmarried children of U.S. citizens. These children must be younger than 21 years old.
  • F-2: this group for lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and is further broken down into two subcategories:
    • The F-2A is for the spouses and children of green card holders. The children must be under 21.
    • The F-2B is for the unmarried children over 21 of green card holders
  • F-3: this is for the children of U.S. citizens who are married as well as any children they might have.
  • F-4: this last group is for the brothers and sisters (siblings) of U.S. citizens, which may undergo some changes in the near future.

Siblings of the U.S. Citizens Category

The elimination of the sibling category is not a new concept for lawmakers. It has been discussed for decades, but now it will become official if the immigration reform passes. Congress feels the newly allocated visas, dedicated to the employment-based applicants, will better serve the U.S. economic need.

However, to make this adjustment Congress is requesting complete cancellation of the sibling sponsorship. Currently, the government limits the sibling category to 65,000 visas available annually. In 2012, about 2.5 million sibling applicants were waiting to be granted U.S. green cards and 746,137 of those were from Mexico.

The next largest group of sibling applicants are all in Asia: India, Philippines, Vietnam, China, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Those countries create an overall 1,007,251 applicants waiting for sibling visas which is about 40% of total applicants.

Limits on Married Sons and Daughters

The cap on married sons and daughters is a newly introduced concept from Congress. In 2012, 19,962 married sons and daughters were granted U.S. green cards. To restrict this category Congress suggests putting an age limit on the married sons and daughter category. Under the proposed changes, if the married child is 31 years or older, he/she would not be eligible to receive sponsorship from the U.S. citizen parent.

In total, the two categories (siblings and married sons and daughters) reached 16.2% of the total family-based visas granted.

Chain Migration

“Chain Migration,” as a result of family-based visas, was another hot topic for Congress lawmakers. The negotiating bipartisan group stated that there needed to be a reduction in chain migration.

Chain Migration occurs when the newly granted green card citizens (the parents, spouses, children, and siblings) then petition to enter more immediate relatives in the United States. The new legislation would remove a significant portion of that leaving the possibility only to parents, spouses, and children.

The Effects of the New Bill

For siblings to enter the United States, they would be required to apply under a newly developed merit-based system. The system provides points to applicants based on education, skills, language, and family relations.

Due to the discussed changes, many immigrant- advocacy groups are unhappy with the proposed bill. Group representatives claim that the new restrictions and limitations will be detrimental to families who rely on siblings for financial and emotional needs. These groups also contend that improving the business system should not be at the expense of the family-based system immigration system.

However, Congress believes that aimed employment-based immigration can assist businesses who are in great need of highly skilled workers or workers with degrees in math, technology, science, and engineering. With this new bill, legislatures hope to utilize current immigration reform to better balance the United States economy.

How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help

This bill proposes immediate changes that affect certain applicants seeking citizenship through the sibling and married sons and daughters categories. Our immigration lawyers suggest such applicants to take advantage of current family-based green card category and begin the filing process as soon as possible.

At SGM Law Group, we are experienced in family-based green card process including various complicated scenarios faced by relatives of the US citizens. Our immigration lawyers are capable of providing documentation assistance and filing services to avoid potential delays.