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The Risks of Waiting to Apply for Immigration Status

Romish Badani

One of the most frequent questions we get asked by eligible applicants is "should I wait to apply?" The confusion is understandable given the long wait times for green card and Deferred Action applicants, along with hope that new immigration laws will present better opportunities. Unfortunately, waiting to apply does not help with any of these issues. In fact, waiting may harm your situation. There are two important reasons why:

The unforeseen consequences of waiting

Your wait time will get even longer

The current estimated wait times for family-based green cards are below, based on the filing dates for applications being accepted in July 2013. Green shading represents wait times under 5 years, yellow represents 5 to 10 years, and red represents over 10 years.

Current Family Visa Wait Times (Years)

Every new applicant goes to the "back of the line" behind other applicants in the same visa category that applied before them. In other words, your time to approval will only get longer if you wait. This is especially true if new immigration laws pass because millions of applicants are expected to apply and get added to this line.

Waiting until new immigration laws pass will limit opportunities

A shorter wait time isn't the only reason to apply sooner. The new immigration reform laws being discussed in Congress reward those who have already applied, whether for the Deferred Action program or a green card.

For example individuals who have been granted DACA by the time a new law goes into effect would have a much easier path to legalization. While others will have to pay additional application fees and penalties, those who have been granted DACA will only have to do a background check (and therefore save over $1,000) and potentially obtain a green card years ahead of other undocumented immigrants.

Individuals eligible for family visas could face even more significant consequences if they wait for new immigration laws. For instance, if the current bill passes, the sibling visa category (for U.S. citizens looking to bring their brother or sister to the U.S.) will be eliminated. Waiting too long could mean losing immigration opportunities that currently exist for you and your family.

Overall, these next couple months are a great time to apply. In addition to the reasons noted above, immigration lawyers and non-profit legal centers are relatively less busy today than they were six months ago or will be a few months from now if immigration reform passes. That means better more responsive service, better client experiences, and likely no wait time to get started on your case. Most immigration lawyers will even start your application for a fraction of the total payment and will offer generous payment plans for the balance of your legal fees.

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.


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