THREE years before the pandemic, the infection of delay due to oversubscription was already eating into the waiting anxieties of US immigrant visa applicants like expectant fathers outside maternity wards.

In March of 2017, the over-21 unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens in the F1 family preference category were looking at priority dates: Only those whose petitions were filed on or before Dec. 15, 2005 could expect to be interviewed at the US Embassy in Manila.

Benefiting from a significant portion of applicants in its category being exempt from the annual quota, the spouses and minor children of green card holders were 10 years ahead of their F1 counterparts.

The over-21 unmarried sons and daughters of green card holders — F2B — were a year ahead of visa applicants in the same age and marital status whose petitioners were US citizens.

Married sons and daughters of US citizens were looking at about 23 years of waiting if their parents filed a petition in March of 2017.

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Siblings of US citizens are the immigrant visa applicants with the longest waiting period ahead of them: 24 years. Even if a US citizen or brother filed a petition on March 1, 2017, the sibling (petition beneficiary — SBP) is staring at a 24-year wait.

Even if that SBP is single and without children, by the time his or her priority date becomes current, any children born in that year (2017) would have aged out (or turned 21) thus transitioning to the twilight zone of ineligible derivative beneficiaries.

Or, like pacing fathers outside the maternity ward expecting the birth of his child.

In 2017, there were 288,826 expectant F1 fathers; 578,083 in the F2A section; 364,353 in the F2B unit; and 735,955 in the married sons and daughters of US citizens (F3). Meanwhile, the hospital had to ask the expectant fathers — all 2,344,993 of them in the F4 category — to wait outside the hospital maternity wards. In fact, they were told to wait outside the hospital building because of a 24-year waiting period.

If it's any consolation, these numbers are for all immigrant visa applicants in the five family preference categories, not just the Philippines.

But the waiting period of up to 24 years applied to Filipino visa expectant fathers.

That was before the Covid-19 virus came into being either from a lab or from a Wuhan market.

Fast-forward to March 2020 when the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization.

The expectant visa fathers in November 2020 had ambivalent reactions: a mixture of joy and angst. Overall, all the categories showed reduction in numbers (see table 1) but not enough to move the priority dates (or dates of birth) forward.

TABLE 1

In March 2020, the F1 priority dates moved almost four years, the F2A jumped ahead by five years and became current, F2B moved forward by more than three years. The F3 and F4 moved forward by five and six years, respectively (see table2).

TABLE 2

With the declaration of Covid-19 becoming a pandemic, it's as if a global abortion happened. Priority dates (or birthdates) hardly moved as being stillborn with the exception of the immediate relatives of US citizens who were not given any gestation periods at all.

The spouses, minor children and parents of US citizens are exempt from the annual quota. They are not part of the "preferred" categories. As soon as their petitions are approved, immigrant visas are immediately available.

Coming back to the parallelism, visa births for the immediate relatives of US citizens are expected virtually with no waiting period at all. They are not part of the categories published monthly by the State Department's Visa Bulletin.

Despite their not being subject to the yearly numerical limits, however, their visas still need to be processed at the National Visa Center. There they are the priority cases in the sense that their visa processing proceeds on the fast lane, unlike the "preferred" categories.

Hence, when ex-president Donald Trump issued his proclamation banning the admission of immigrants, the expectant fathers in the preference category maternity wards were the ones severely affected.

They can only look with envy and disappointment as the visa children of US citizens move on from the maternity wards to the arms of their loving parents while the preference category visa fathers have to continue their nerve-wracking pacing — waiting.

For July 2020, the birth (priority dates) shows movement (see table 3).

TABLE 3

The reasons for the continued delay are the huge backlog brought about by the twin towers of virus and visa applicant ban.

Last week, the Department of Health (DoH) reported an uptick in Covid-19 cases: 539 new ones, "the highest number of active infections in the country since the May 9 elections."

In the same period, the total active cases reached 3,829, "the highest daily increase in over two months or since April 3," the DoH Friday bulletin stated.

Worldwide, including in the US, cases have exhibited an upward trend.

The Guardian reported last month that the US "is now in its fourth-biggest Covid surge, averaging about 94,000 new cases daily and hospitalizations have been ticking upward since April."

All these virus and visa news suggest the continued non-normal visa operations at US embassies worldwide, including that of the consular post in Manila.

Happy waiting days to all visa fathers.