immigrant visas

For the past week or so our ConGen class has focused on immigrant visas, so we’ve been stuffing our minds full of rules and classifications and ineligibilities and waivers. And of course don’t forget the acronyms. There are a lot of computer systems with which to become familiar too. I won’t bore you with all the details, but here are a few tidbits I’ve found interesting:

  • Most applicants we’ll see in Benin are part of the Diversity Visa Lottery, which allows 50,000 people a year to come to the U.S. as legal permanent residents who wouldn’t otherwise qualify. Not every country is allowed to participate. Here’s a list of those that aren’t. (The other common ways to get an immigrant visa are through family relationships or through your job. Refugees and asylum seekers get immigrant visas too, but we won’t be dealing with those.)
  • There are two different levels of family relationships, for immigration purposes. Spouses and children of citizens and legal permanent residents are allowed to come to the U.S. pretty much immediately. For other family relationships, like siblings, the wait can be much longer. For instance, the adult daughter of a U.S. citizen who applied for an immigrant visa in January 2005 is just now eligible to be interviewed. Yep, six years later. In certain countries, the wait time is even worse. For instance, coming from the Philippines and applying through your connection to your U.S. citizen sibling? Well, if your application was submitted before January 1988, we’re now ready to interview you for a spot. Yes, 1988. That’s not a typo. Twenty-three years.

Finally, a technical note about the distinction between “immigrant” and “emigrant,”  which people mess up all too often (a pet peeve of mine since my undergraduate days)…

  • Immigrant: Someone living in your country who’s originally from another country. Quite a few of Yemeni immigrants live in Brooklyn, for instance. (You can also remember that an immigrant, which starts with “i,” is someone who came “in.”)
  • Emigrant: Someone from your country who’s living in another country. To people still living in Yemen, those Brooklyn-based Yemeni are emigrants. (An emigrant, which starts with an “e,” is someone who “exited” their country, in a sense.)

(Thank you for tolerating my annoying public service announcement.)

Starting tomorrow: non-immigrant visas. Unless the whole government is closed because of the impending snow storm. But I’m not counting on it.

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One Response to immigrant visas

  1. Jeanne says:

    I had actually wondered about those different spellings–the “e” spelling comes up in crossword puzzles fairly often. Always thought it was just a quirky spelling to fit the boxes.

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