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Family immigration: fewer extended family visas approved in 2017

Immigration Services

When a person immigrates to Kentucky, they may do so on their own with the intention of one day sponsoring visas for their family members, so that their family members can also immigrate to the United States. After all, many immigrant families often want to be reunited in the U.S., where they have greater freedoms and opportunities than they may have had in their former country.

However, 2017 saw the fewest number of family-based I-130 visas approved in over 10 years, according to data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The number of approvals went down almost 25 percent from January through September of 2017. In 2017 that number sat at approximately 406,000. However, in 2016 that number sat at over 530,000. This is despite the fact that approximately the same amount of people applied for such visas in both 2016 and 2017.

The number of I-130 visas approved for those who were not immediate family members went down by 70 percent from January through September of 2017 in comparison to 2016. The number of fiancé visas approved went down 35 percent during that same time period.

In the 2017 fiscal year, approval of family-based visa petitions dropped to numbers that have not been seen in over 10 years, at approximately 540,800 approvals. According to USCIS, only a certain amount of extended family visas that are available, and that the agency's priority, as of right now, is on reviewing visas that have more immediate availability. USCIS also said that it is normal for these numbers to fluctuate over the years.

The Trump administration has expressed concern about "chain migration," in which legal immigrants sponsor visas that would allow their extended family members to reside in the U.S., and questioned whether there was adequate selection criteria for approving applications for these visas. But, advocates for family immigration have stated that extended family members seeking a visa do not automatically get one, but instead are thoroughly vetted before being approved -- a process that could take years.

The issue of extended family visas can be complex. In the end though, immigrants in the U.S. should not be afraid to sponsor a loved one's visa. Just because there have been fewer approvals does not mean that approval is not possible. It is important then, to make sure that no crucial step is overlooked in the visa application process.

Source: Reuters, "Fewer family visas approved as Trump toughens vetting of immigrants: Reuters review," Mica Rosenberg, Jan. 4, 2018

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