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Part 2: U.S. may close the door to sibling immigration

In Part One of this series, we wrote about the impending changes to the current immigration system, whether through sweeping reform or piecemeal legislation. South Carolina legal residents who are trying to get extended family members into the U.S. under the so-called sibling category may be wondering if this means their relatives will be shut out. Not necessarily, but it helps to understand what is behind the push towards these changes and what to expect from the new legislation.

Lawmakers have been trying get rid of the sibling category for decades. If immigration reform passes, the sibling category will be gone. With the bipartisan bill currently stalled in the House, Democrats have introduced their own comprehensive bill, but it also calls for cuts to the quotas of family-related visas. These legislative proposals have gone under the radar because attention has mainly been on border security and the controversial "pathway to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants.

With regard to sibling immigration, what the Senate bill will do is scale back on the phenomenon known as "chain migration," in which immigrants apply for visas for immediate relatives such siblings, married children, parents and spouses, who then petition for more relatives to enter.

One of the chief negotiators of the bill, Senator John McCain, said that the Senate bill will pretty much eliminate that. Instead, the bill intends to help drive the U.S. economy by "dramatically broadening" the number of visas granted to high-skill workers and to those with degrees in the sciences, engineering, math and technology.

Admission would be based on merit, with points awarded for education, language and skills, in addition to the family relation. The bill will also cap the age for married children entering the U.S. at 30. After that, their parents will not be allowed to sponsor them.

Those among the 2.5 million who have already applied under the sibling category will not be affected by the comprehensive bill, should it pass. However, immigration lawyers and social service groups are urging legal residents to act soon and petition for their relatives before the changes come.

On the positive side, if the Senate bill passes, spouses and children of legal permanent residents will not be backlogged, and should get their visas faster. As time is of the essence, permanent residents may want to consider applying for family-related visas soon, and consult with legal professionals to help in the process.

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

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