What’s the toughest part of US immigration? It’s waiting for your turn
In a legal sense, US immigration is not as difficult as many may consider it.
Approval rates are high for a variety of immigrant visas. Paperwork is relatively easy because there’s plenty of free legal guidance online. And the government provides a decent reporting system to tell you how your case is proceeding. From a procedural prospective, immigration is not necessarily “tough”.
The real problem is — the waiting time. Year over year, the average processing time has crept up for most procedures. Let’s take the Fiance K visa process as a clear example.
Couples who applied for a visa decades witnessed processing times of 3–5 months from start to finish. This same fiance visa process now takes up to 10+ months… and with COVID-19 shut downs, delays are at unrealistic numbers.
You can argue “what’s the hurry? They will eventually get to you. You just have to be patient and wait your turn. Besides, with COVID-19 around, it’s best that you don’t travel.” But if you peel back and look into the lives of those who have been waiting months — if not years — to reunite with their partners, you see the desperation goes beyond loneliness.
Relationships feel tremendous emotional and financial strain from maintaining a long-distance relationship. Without a foreign partner working in the US and lending a second source of income, for example, it gets costly to juggle two separate lives in two countries; and without being able to confidently plan a future, it robs the couple of their relationship’s excitement.
The heart and wallet are hit the hardest
Because the Fiance visa are one type of high “priority” visas for the US government, they’re supposedly processed quickly so families can reunite.
Here’s how it works: It starts with a US citizen sending a petition to the USCIS, the branch whose in charge of immigration, and requesting an interview at a US embassy. Once the case is approved, the foreign fiance is allowed to come to the US and marry within 90 days.
The statistics you see in this table from the USCIS are only part of the processing time, not the full. From start to finish, the majority of applicants spend 5–10 months in the process. However, this long wait time, which may even drag for years, impacts people in interesting ways.
First, it’s a source of tremendous emotional strain. A long-distance relationship is difficult to begin with, but if you add demoralizing effects of immigration news and aggression by the incumbent President, you have a desperate situation.
Fear of a visa denial, which would separate a couple longer, and the uncertainty of their future force applicants to wonder: when will they start to live together? Raise a family? Or buy their first home?
With such unpredictability, there’s no planning a wedding, sending “save the dates”, inviting friends / family, or to make exciting life decisions such as buying a house.
This slow march takes the excitement out of the relationship. Instead of looking forward to the great time to come, they’re preoccupied with the visa procedures and lose sight of what they’ll do when the foreign partner actually comes to the US. Not surprisingly, by the end of the ordeal, you can hear couples defeatedly say that they “gave up planning a celebration and just decided to get married in the courthouse surrounded by a small group of family and friends.”
Other couples are wedged in even more sensitive situations. For those who have children, for example, it’s nerve-racking to have children who are at a risk of “aging out” (over 21 years old). In order to avoid automatic disqualification, children must get processed before their 21st birthday. Unfortunately, there have been several instances where delays from the government forced families to leave their children behind.
The second reason why couples crave to close the gap quicker is for finances. Believe it or not, they look forward to having their partner in the US and contributing to the household income. An added source of income helps offset the years of debt accrued in maintaining a long-distance-relationship.
This makes sense. Long-distance couples have to pay for expensive travel to meet each other, and take vacation time from work (even without pay) several times per year.
The biggest factor, however, is the cost of the fiance visa process itself. The government’s filing fees are no laughing matter. Fiance visa couples end up paying $3,500 to $5,000 in filing fees and traveling expenses before even stepping foot in the US. For those who decide on using legal help, the costs skyrocket even further.
If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s a possibility of having to repay fees in case documents “expire” before applicants get a chance to attend the interview. This is increasingly becoming common as COVID-19 has shutdown Embassies worldwide.
The real challenge is dealing with delays
So what’s the real struggle immigrants face coming to the US?
It’s different from what most would consider. Someone who’s never been involved with immigration before may say “the paperwork is probably complicated…” or “the procedures may be confusing, don’t you need a lawyer for that?”
But the reality is different. Paperwork and procedures are not complicated for most categories. The government has come a long way in making things simpler and easier. In addition, the internet has virtually everything under the sun, making paperwork not as mysterious as it once used to be.
The real struggle in immigration is waiting your turn. Waiting for your turn robs immigrants of their chance to contribute to the US, work here, live here, earn money, go to school and reunite with their family members. Instead, by being herded in a queue due to the backlog, immigrants feel the pinch of finances and emotional stress.
Prem helps Fiance K Visa couples navigate the visa process so they can finally reunite. With meticulous step-by-step instructions and videos, Prem has guided thousands of couples on how to get their visa approved without delays or problems. Join his email list to get weekly news, updates, and articles.