The current U.S. immigration system makes about 65,000 visas available each year for brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens. Wait times in this visa category are long, particularly for foreigners in countries with high U.S. immigration volumes like the Philippines, but sibling visas have traditionally been an important path for reuniting families in the U.S. The proposed new immigration bill would eliminate the sibling visa category. Many people are making arguments for and against this proposed change, but the goal of this post is to educate the community about the new system being discussed and the necessary steps to successfully apply for your siblings before this window of opportunity closes.
The immigration bill currently being debated in Congress places a greater emphasis on employment-based visas and creates a new point system that changes how family visas are allocated. Between 125,000 and 250,000 visas will be given out based on this point system, and the sibling visa will no longer exist as a separate category 18 months after the bill becomes law. To summarize the point system, applicants will be given points based on a variety of characteristics with the highest weighted characteristics being employment background and education. A sibling relationship with an adult U.S. citizen earns 10 points (or 10-12% of the maximum available points), so this family relationship helps but only to a small degree. The American Immigration Council provides some more detail on the proposed point system and the New York Times' Julia Preston provides helpful answers to some common questions about the new bill.
Although the separate sibling visa category will be eliminated if the immigration reform bill is passed, you can and should still apply for the sibling visa today. Any applications submitted under the current system will still be completed, even if the new system is implemented. In fact, the wait time for your siblings to receive a green card may be reduced because the bill promises to clear the current backlog of family visa applicants over the next ten years.
The key takeaway: apply sooner rather than later to bring your siblings to the U.S. If the reform bill passes there will be a large volume of new applicants that will result in even longer wait times and this opportunity will no longer exist 18 months after the law goes into effect. To find out if you're eligible to apply or to find a qualified immigration lawyer who can help, visit https://lexspot.com or call 1-855-539-7768 to speak with someone from our Immigration Support team.