Visas for family “reunification” explained

A few days ago I reported on Somalis in Minneapolis who are angry that the US State Department/Homeland Security are making it harder for them to bring their “families” to the US.    I explained that the P-3 program had been suspended in 2008 when it was learned that tens of thousands of Africans (mostly from Somalia) had gotten into the US fraudulently—they lied about their family relationship.  The program is still partially closed.   And, now the I-130 visa process has added some hurdles which has ticked-off the would-be migrants (and their lawyers) even further.

Since these visa application processes are all ‘greek’ to those of us on the outside, I appealed for help in understanding the I-130 visa and the I-730 visa as it relates to “refugees.”    A kind reader with experience has sent us the following explanation (emphasis mine).   This will be filed in our ‘where to find information’ category for your future reference.

I-130’s

This is the name used for a form to apply for the legal immigration of certain relatives of  certain types of US legal residents. It is not a part of the US refugee resettlement program. It’s an application for a permanent visa based on family relationship criteria.

Any  US citizen can petition for parents, spouse , minor children, single adult children over 21, married children , and siblings. (spouses and minor children of beneficiaries are included on the visa)

Depending on the relationship to the petitioner,there are various waiting times based on the number of pending applications.

Parents, spouses and unmarried minor children are eligible for “immediate” visas and it’s just a matter of the actual processing time (although  it’s usually several months to a year).  Older children have a much longer waiting period and for siblings, the wait hovers around 10 years .

Legal permanent residents (green card holders) can only petition for spouses, unmarried minor children. Those are not “immediate” visas, but are subject to another waiting list but is usually 3-4 years),

Visas  are initially adjudicated by the visa center here in the US simply based on documentation presented with the application, and then (provided they are initially approved) , once they become “current” , sent overseas to the nearest embassy/consulate for final decision, based on a face to face interview and documentation.

The US petitioner is also required to file an “affidavit of support” (showing financial ability to support the applicant (s)) which precludes the applicants from accessing any public benefits upon entering the US. (this is a whole other issue, since  actual enforcement of those affidavits varies greatly from state to state and many legal visa recipients do access public benefits).

At one time, in the P-3 program, US relatives who were US citizens were barred from utilizing the P-3 process and required to file I-130’s. Refugee advocates successfully lobbied to have this rule changed, thus US citizens could file P-3 applications.  While no longer required to, they could still also simultaneously file I-130’s  as a back up in case the applicants failed to meet refugee criteria (one does not preclude the other). In my experience, most US relatives chose not to file the I-130s and , instead, rely solely on the P-3 process which, as you know, confers refugee status and eligibility for all available public benefits and puts no onus of financial responsibility on the US anchor relative.

I-730’s

This is where the lines can get a bit blurry.

This is a US visa called “following to join.” There are 2 categories:

Visa 93 (US relative was admitted as a refugee)
Visa 92 (US relative was granted political asylum in the US)

Applicants are limited to spouses and unmarried minor children (not parents, siblings, married or over 21 kids).

Relationships must have existed prior to granting of US petitioner’s status (some tricky parts here!).  Application must be filed within 2 years of granted status.

Visas 92/93 can be filed simultaneously with  P-3 applications.

Those applications are initially approved  by US immigration processing centers (there are only a couple who do these) and sent to the local embassy/consulate for final adjudication. The applicants are under no requirement to provide any proof of refugee claims themselves,  but only proof of relationship to the petitioner.  If the visa is granted, they are admitted to the US under “derivative refugee/asylee” status.  Affidavits of support are not required, and they are eligible for public benefits subject to the petitioner’s income (again,… my experience showed a large amount of  easily-conducted fraud).

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