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What Exactly is Chain Migration?

Immigration policy continues to make national headlines as it has become a central focus of the Trump administration and a major sticking point between Democrats and Republicans. The lengthy and controversial negotiations surrounding the DACA program were recently responsible for a 69-hour government shutdown and the potential of yet another looms near.
One term that has been repeatedly tossed around and continuously highlighted as a major flaw in the current immigration system is “chain migration.” “Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” Trump said during his State of the Union address. The term itself is used to describe the chain-like way that people are allowed to apply for legal immigration to the U.S., but in reality the number of people an immigrant can sponsor is not unlimited. For example, grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws and cousins are not permitted to sponsor a relative for immigration.
How the System Works
Under U.S. immigration law, the system is designed around family reunification. Immediate Relative (IR) Visas are available to spouses of a U.S. citizen, unmarried minor (under 21) children of a U.S. citizen, orphans adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen, orphans to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen, and parents of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old. In addition, Family Preference Immigrant Visas are available to unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children; spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (at least 21) of green card holders; married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children; and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children. Immediate relative visas are unlimited, while the other family-based preference visas are capped each year depending on which preference category the beneficiary falls under.
Whenever the number of qualified applicants for a category exceeds the available immigrant visas, a backlog will start to accrue. In this situation, the available immigrant visas will be issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed using their priority date — the filing date of a petition. Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant’s priority date is reached, and in certain categories there may be a waiting period of several years or more.
The White House Plan
In the latest immigration proposal released by the Trump administration, the President outlines a framework to drastically change the way the U.S. handles family sponsorship. The White House Plan would limit family-based immigration to spouses and minor children. That means categories for parents and siblings of U.S. citizens, along with those for adult children of citizens and green card holders, would come to an end. The latest White House proposal plans to cut legal immigration by 44 percent annually, and is similar only to two notorious pieces of legislation: The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924, which reduced the number of legal immigrants by 495,672 and 412,582, respectively. Nearly a half-million people per year and roughly 22 million people over the next 50 years would be denied the opportunity to immigrate to the U.S. lawfully.
If you are interested in immigrating to the United States and would like to explore your options, please contact our office today to schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable attorneys!