What Is An Immigration Backlog?

Emigrating the U.S. is a dream for many thousands of people around the world. They all have their own reasons, whether it is to join the rest of their family, to come and study at some of the best universities in the world, or to take advantage of a great job opportunity. In each case, the prospective immigrants have dreams and hopes, and the only way to realize them is to immigrate to the U.S.

Ease of U.S. Immigration

Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as just wishing to come to the U.S. There are laws in place that set forth a process for immigration, beginning with securing a visa and then continuing through permanent residence (the green card) and perhaps ending with full citizenship. Those looking to bring their spouses, parents and children to the U.S. have it fairly easy. While their cases can be denied, they rarely are and even more importantly, there are no limits to the number of green cards issued for this group of immigrants. No limits mean no immigration backlog, but for others, the truth can be more bleak.

Why Are There Immigration Backlogs?

Immigration in the U.S. falls under the direction of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They are responsible for processing all permanent residence and citizenship applications. While they attempt to process all these applications as quickly as possible, because there are limitations on the number of visas offered each year there can at times exist backlogs for immigrating to the U.S. The immigration backlog occurs whenever there are more applicants for a particular type of visa or from a particular country than has been accommodated for by the U.S. State Department.
Immigration limits for 2012 are 226,000 family related visas and 144,000 employment related visas. In addition, there are per country limits of just 25,900 individual visas issued for each country. Once those limits are reached the remaining individuals go onto the waiting list. Needless to say, some countries routinely exceed the limits. As of 2012 these are the top 5 countries with an immigration backlog and the number of applicants waiting:
1) Mexico 1,374,294
2) Philippines 503,266
3) India 343,401
4) Vietnam 281,439
5) China (mainland born) 248,494
These 5 countries alone represent well over 50% of the immigration backlog in the U.S. There are few ways to avoid the immigration limits, especially if you are coming from one of the top 5 backlog countries. The best suggestion is to petition for your green card as soon as possible. Even if you dont think you want to go to the U.S. now, it is possible that you could change your mind in the future. If you have relatives who can file a petition on your behalf now you could save yourself years of waiting in the future when you decide you do want to come to the U.S. Immigration backlogs are not shrinking, they are growing yearly as more people try to come to the U.S. while visa quotas remain static.
Tony Huberts is a writer and law student at the University of Toronto, Canada. He is most passionate about immigration law and hopes to one day help with immigration in Toronto.