Family-Based Immigration: The Current Environment

Family-based immigration continues to be the primary way people gain lawful residency in the U.S., but recent policy shifts and potential future changes to the system have made the process increasingly worrisome for those contemplating this process.

For example, during fiscal year 2016, more than 800,000 people — upwards of 70 percent of all immigrants — earned family-based lawful permanent resident status, according to Pew Research data. Now, this pathway has widely been negatively dubbed “chain migration,” and Congress and the White House are debating changes that may make certain family members ineligible.

Along with potential family member status changes, the U.S. government also enacted what is being called “extreme vetting” measures to protect the public against bad actors. Unfortunately, these policies are negatively impacting good people involved in new and existing marriage-based cases.

Recently, judges overseeing marriage-based visa applications that are under the jurisdiction of Immigration Court appear to be erring on the side of caution in this politically-charged immigration environment, whereas, in the past, judges exercised a greater degree of discretion and felt comfortable moving cases along at a steady rate. Coupled with rising marriage-based applications, judicial hesitancy has resulted in a growing backlog of cases and marriage-based applicants are experiencing longer approval times.  Marriage based cases interviewed at local USCIS offices at a US Embassies and Consulates around the world are also experiencing heightened screening and scrutiny.

What does this mean for good people seeking to join their loved ones in the United States?  Now, more than ever, they need to be effective, efficient, and persuasive as they face stricter documentation requirements and tougher interview questions. They also need to persuade each and every person they interact with during the approval process that they are in a bona fide familial relationship and will be a valuable member of the American community.

This can be an overwhelming and difficult process, and we are here to help. Given the volatile and politically-charged immigration environment, it’s important for marriage-based and other applicants to work with an experienced immigration attorney to help navigate the complex system. If you or a loved one are considering applying, don’t hesitate to contact our firm and schedule an immigration consultation.