• Visa Expressway


    In 1990, there were 1,620.242 registered motor vehicles in the Philippines. Seventeen years later, the Philippine Transportation Statistics report showed the number shot up to 5,530,052.

    The country has only one main artery connecting Metro Manila to the north. On the road user’s front, the National Capital Region alone has 1,592,036 registered vehicles.

    Now, imagine only 672 vehicles allowed to enter the North Expressway every day; or only 226,000 registered vehicles can enter every year. No vehicles will be allowed to get into the toll booth entrance gates until each of the 226,000 vehicles are out of the Expressway.

    What will happen?

    Yes, the result will be a lone, long line of vehicles waiting to get in. A huge backlog.

    Just like the long line of immigrant visa applicants waiting to get into the Visa Expressway to reach their destination—the United States of America.

    Given the driving temperament of the Filipinos, there would be murder at the toll gates—road rage fury at its worst. But Filipinos are known to comply with laws when in other countries. In fact, when the Clark Air Base was still open to the driving public, we made sure to let the vehicle to your right enter the intersection first, before we go. That is elementary road courtesy in the US. So it was there, so it was here at CAB. Filipino drivers, however, observe a different set of rules on Philippine roads.

    But let us get back to the US visa toll gates where 4,322,575 registered applicants are waiting to get into the Visa Expressway.

    Mexico has the most numbers at 1,316,118. The Philippines is second at 462,145.

    To get into the exit visa toll gate, an immigrant visa applicant must be “documentarily qualified.” This means he or she must have complete, true, correct, legal documents establishing his or her nationality, identity. He also must present the ticket with the specific number given to him (or her) at the toll entrance. This ticket in US visa terms is the “priority date.”

    The priority date is the date the immigrant visa petition was received by US immigration authorities. This agency was the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), now called the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). one of three agencies under the Department of Homeland Security.

    To be scheduled for interview at the US Embassy in Manila, the visa applicant’s priority date must be current. Only then would an immigrant visa be available for him or her as well as the qualified dependents – the spouse and minor children below 21 years of age.

    The US State Department publishes the Visa Bulletin every month showing the priority dates that are current and how many of the 226,000 immigrant visa applicants in the Family-sponsored category would be allowed to exit the Visa Expressway and finally get admitted into the US in the specific category they are classified in. There are 140,000 immigrant visas for the Employment-based applicants which includes the 3rd Preference category where our registered nurses are in. The waiting period is five to seven years. But that’s for another column.

    A visa applicant must be “documentarily qualified” to be issued the immigrant visa. If there is a discrepancy in the birth records and the petition that was filed—for example, misspelling of the name or an incorrect birth date—the visa application would be delayed, even cancelled. If the visa applicant gets married before he reaches the toll exit, the category will change and more years will be added to the waiting period.

    The US petitioner must also prove that there has been no change in his or her immigration status. A green card holder transitions into a US citizen. If a petitioner who was a green card holder (officially termed as a lawful permanent resident or LPR) becomes a US citizen, the category of the person being petitioned (called the visa beneficiary and principal applicant) will also change.

    F1 category is for those over 21, unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens. When an F1 visa applicant gets married, the category changes to F3. The spouse or minor children – unmarried and below 21 – of green card holders are in the F2A category. Over 21, unmarried sons and daughters of a green card holder are called F2B beneficiaries. Adult brothers and sisters of US citizens are in the F4 category.

    The petitioner must not have abandoned his or her US citizenship and must be domiciled in the US –not permanently residing in the Philippines for whatever reason e.g., “it’s too cold and lonely out there” or “I cannot survive on my pension alone.”

    In our 226,000 vehicle analogy, while 672 cars may have entered the toll gate on the same day, not all of them will reach the exit gates at the same time. Some may run out of gas. Others may have engine malfunction or a flat tire and God forbid get into an accident. Such incidents will cause delay. So will discrepancy in NSO records, or marital status of the visa applicant, or crimes committed, as well as visa denials where fraud was involved. Each of these incidents will result in visa issuance delays – or outright refusal.

    In 2012, there were 23,723 immigrant visa applicants in the Preference Category. These visa applicants are not the spouses, parents or minor children of US citizens, called “immediate relatives” under US immigration laws. Immediate relatives are not subject to quota. Therefore they need not get a ticket at the visa toll gate. They can get in anytime. However, they must still be documentarily qualified when they present their toll ticket at the exit gate.

    The US Embassy in Manila reports issuing 35,784 immigrant visas in 2004. This annual number does not go below 30,000. There is a quota of 25,620 per country in the preference categories. As mentioned before, immediate relatives are not subject to quota. Hence there are more visas issued than just the 25,620 yearly allocation to the Philippines. The number swelled to 44,146 in 2006 but returned to 34,617 in 2013.

    As for the toll ticket or priority date for each applicant in the Preference Category here are the numbers being allowed into the US for the month of September 2014.

    For visa questions or concerns, send your email to questions@visacenter.org.


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    1. Clarification – Immediate relatives of US citizens need not pass through the regular toll gate and get a ticket at the visa toll gate. They can get in anytime into the express lane, not the regular lanes. However, they must still be documentarily qualified when they present their toll ticket at the exit gate. My oversight. For visa-related concerns, you may email me directly at cra@visacenter.org

    2. The September 2014 cut-off dates for immigrant applicants from the Philippines is shown here. For the complete details, you may click here – https://www.facebook.com/IVCmigration?ref=hl

      F1 Over 21, unmarried sons, daughters of US Citizens – 01AUG04
      F2A Spouses, minor children of green card holders – 01JAN13
      F2B Over 21, unmarried sons/daughters of green card holders – 01DEC03
      F3 Married sons/daughters of US Citizens – 22MAY93
      F4 Adult brother/sisters of US Citizens – 15MAR91
      EB3 Employment-based, Third Preference and Other Workers – 01APR11