New signs at the visa expressway

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THERE should be close to 10 million vehicles registered in the Philippines – cars, utility vehicles, SUVs, trucks, buses, motor cycles among them, based on official tally by the Department of Transportation and Communications – Land Transportation Office (DOTC-LTO).

About two years ago, the DOTC reported a total of 7,690,038 registered motor vehicles in the country.

Now imagine all these vehicles wanting to reach the Dau-Angeles exit that would lead to other interchanges and the travel destinations to the North. Imagine further that all these vehicles would have to enter only through the Balintawak entry point.

In visa and consular terms, that entry point would be Philippines with the United States as the sole destination for Filipino immigrant visa applicants. As with the expressway, since there are more vehicles than the road that could accommodate them, hundreds of thousands would have to wait for their turn at the Balintawak exit, causing a monumental backlog all the way to Mindanao – and Sabah.


There are only 25,620 immigrant visas allocated to the Philippines every year in the preference categories.

That essentially is what Filipino applicants waiting for their immigrant visas are experiencing, year after year.

For every Filipino who enters the US after visa issuance, sponsoring or petitioning immediate relatives – spouse, dependent child, parents means more applicants waiting at the US Embassy toll gates.

As of November 1, 2013, the US State Department said there were 4,322,575 permanent resident applicants worldwide. Of this number, Mexico was on top with 1,312,198 while the Philippines came in a distant second with 436,639.

Where do Filipino visa applicants look for signs to know when their immigrant visa interview would be scheduled?

From the Visa Bulletin published by the US State Department within the 10th to 12th day of each month. They should receive a notice to appear for the consular interview at the US Embassy in Manila from the National Visa Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Until September this year, the State Department puts out the cut-off dates that would be matched with the visa applicant’s priority date. If the priority date of an applicant for example in the First Family preference category (F1 – unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens) shows “22OCT00” this means, petitions for Filipino applicants filed on or before October 20, 2000 should have their immigrant visa interviews scheduled.

Failure to apply or pursue an immigrant visa application within a year could result in the termination of the case. Unless the visa beneficiary (the person being petitioned) really does not want to join his or her family in the US, then termination or revocation of the visa application – for failure to apply – would take the applicant’s name off the list.

In a manner of speaking, he or she would be asked to get out of the visa expressway. That would mean the visa applicant would have to go back to the end of the line of visa vehicles waiting to enter.

Up until this month, the September Visa Bulletin (below) only puts up the priority dates for four countries that have more applicants than there are visas to be issued.

Starting October 2015, the State Department will put up additional signs for immigrant visa applicants to watch out for.

In addition to the traditional table being posted, the State Department now will put up an additional chart. One chart would have the “Final Action Dates” for each category; the other chart would show the “Date for Filing” dates.

A cut-off date — also known as priority or filing dates for each visa petition that appears in the “Final Action Dates” chart — would be the go signal to request an interview date since the fees would have already been paid, medical exam and NBI clearance and other documents obtained and submitted.

The cut-off dates on the other chart (“Date for Filing” table) on the other hand, is a signal for visa applicants to start their immigrant visa application process before their priority dates become current. Quite a number of visa applicants watch the Visa Bulletin and start obtaining the documents only when their priority dates appear, a common mistake that leads to tragic results.

In some cases where the petitioner is an elderly, frail parent, failure to pay the visa fees and submit complete, valid and current documents on time causes automatic revocation of the petition with the death of the petitioner.

Another unwelcome result of not looking out for signs – not monitoring the Visa Bulletin or knowing what global trends could affect the forward or backward movement of cut-off dates- resulting in the aging out of a dependent child who turns 21.

When a child ages out, that son or daughter would be left behind and even if the parent files a petition after getting the green card, the waiting period at the visa toll gates would be anywhere from 10 to 15 years: causing a family separation that could have been avoided.

That in any language is not a good sign.

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