They may be an annoyance, but to 4,683,393 people waiting for the issuance of their immigrant visas, not to mention the close to 100 million intending to visit, work, study and do business in the United States, fees for immigration petitions, applications and visas are the pests they have to live with.
In November 2015, the US State Department released a list of fifteen countries with the highest number of waiting list registrants in Fiscal Year 2016. The US government’s fiscal year starts in October and ends in September.
The number of immigrant visa applicants from these 15 countries (including the Philippines, as shown in table A) represents 81 percent of the total.
The increases are apparent in the countries with ethnic conflicts, economic degradation and plagued by terrorist activities.
The Philippines is the only country with a decrease in the number of immigrant visa applicants. It should be noted though that in November 2010, the Philippine visa-waiters moved up to 535,750.
Visa applicants and Adjustment of Status applicants
Filipinos apply for their immigrant visas in the Philippines (issued at the US Embassy in Manila). Filipinos who are in the United States (in legal or illegal status) may apply for adjustment of status from unlawful to lawful permanent residents.
Whether getting their lawful permanent resident status in the US or getting their immigrant visas at the US Embassy, Filipinos in the immigrant visa waiting list compete for the limited per-country allocation. Although the yearly allocation may vary, the difference is not much because while the allocation for the family-sponsored categories remain constant at 226,000, the per country quota is determined at a fixed 7 percent of the total of both the family and employment-based categories.
However, the employment-based categories vary by year so the per country limit also changes.
For example, for October 2016, the State Department reported that the 2016 limit for family-sponsored preference immigrants determined in accordance with Section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is 226,000. The fiscal year 2016 limit for employment-based preference immigrants calculated under INA 201 is 140,338. Section 202 prescribes that the per-country limit for preference immigrants is set at seven percent of the total annual family-sponsored and employment-based preference limits, i.e., 25,644 for FY-2016. The dependent area limit is set at 2 percent, or 7,327.
In the fiscal year 2015, the limit for employment-based preference immigrants calculated under INA 201 is 144,796. Section 202 prescribes that the per-country limit for preference immigrants is set at seven percent of the total annual family-sponsored and employment-based preference limits, i.e., 25,956 for FY-2015. The dependent area limit is set at two percent, or 7,416.
The list gets longer – sometimes shorter – depending on world developments and the national mood of the United States. Quite often, those who are waiting in line can just cast deadly stares at those who jump the line – especially individuals who enter the US with visas (but overstay); those who come into the country illegally (border crossers) and the recent category of migrants who flee persecution in their countries – refugees and asylees.
The annual quota on the other hand, competes with non-quota visa petitions and applications, such as tourist visas. While immigrant visa applicants from the Philippines might have decreased, the visa applicants in the nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applicants from other countries increased. So the US Citizenship and Immigration Services has to increase the fees to pay for the increased load of work as well as the additional personnel to be hired to handle the increased volume of petitions and applications. (See selected petitions/applications and the expected increase in load on Table B)
In a few weeks from now, filing a petition for your spouse, child, parent – even a fiancee will cost more, including the fee for issuance of your green card which is paid with an immigrant visa application.
Get ready to pay more to visit, study, work or reside in the United States.
By October 2016, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services would have finalized the rule making process and implement the increased fees for filing nonimmigrant and immigrant petitions and applications. The proposed fee increases were first published on May 4, 2016 and comments from the public as well as stakeholders accepted until July 5, 2016.
The final rule (and increased fees) had been published in the Federal Register and should be in place next month. The proposed increases are shown on Table C.
“Fees, please me, oh yeah”
Apologies for paraphrasing the Beatles song.
The Statue of Liberty (patron saint of immigrants) was completed in France in July 1884 and arrived in New York Harbor in June 1885 to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. Lady Liberty has been the “inspiration to immigrants who sailed past her on the way to America.”
Inscribed at the foot of the pedestal are the words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, New Colossus, written for a fundraiser auction to raise money for the pedestal.
In light of the costs of coming to America as immigrants or nonimmigrants – and the direction of the US policy on who are to be admitted or not – the sonnet could now be reworded to “Give me your best, brightest, wealthiest, willing to pay the fees.”
Here’s a toast to the best of the pests this October.