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Part 1: U.S. may close the door to sibling immigration

Immigrants in South Carolina, like immigrants anywhere in the United States, often share a similar history. They often enter the country alone and then later send for their spouse, if they have one. Still later, they may send for other family members, such as a brother or sister, or a married son or daughter. There's nothing like family for providing a much-needed support system for immigrants trying to make it in a new country.

But the door may soon slam shut on a family immigration with regard to siblings, as lawmakers from both parties seek to enact legislation that will eliminate the sibling category in favor of employment-based education. The reasons are mainly economically-driven.

The application process for a sibling visa can be a long one, as the government caps the number of visas issued under the sibling category at 65,000. Furthermore, there are quotas for the total number of visas allotted for each country. But even lawmakers who support immigration reform feel that employment-based visas will better serve the country's economic needs. That means that in the future, family-based visas would be granted only to the most immediate family members: parents, spouses and children.

Such a measure would significantly change the demographics of immigration in the U.S. In 2012, nearly 60,000 people entered the country under the sibling category, with approximately another 20,000 under the married children category. That's about 16 percent of the total number of family-based residencies granted for that year.

Needless to say, immigration-advocacy groups, particularly those who represent Asian-Americans, are not pleased at the impending changes. They say that the proposed changes will be detrimental to immigrant families, who often depend on siblings when starting a business or raising children.

While it seems unlikely that the comprehensive immigration reform bill will be passed this year, the sibling immigration issue is motivating serious opposition, as individual bills that will halt sibling immigration are being proposed by both parties even if the reform bill is not passed. What immigrants are doing in preparation for the changes will be discussed in the next post.

Source:, "Congress considering tighter restrictions on family visas" Daniel Gonzalez, Nov. 08, 2013

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