America has long recognized that strengthening our families is a core national value and interest, and we must continue our historic commitment to bringing families together through our immigration policy. Each year, the United States grants visas to a limited number of people who have close family ties to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
Legal immigration is essential to ensuring the continued vitality of the American economy and society. Many small businesses are run by immigrants who came to the United States through the family immigration system, and studies show immigrants are more likely to be entrepreneurs than those born in the United States. These are the businesses that promote the renewal of city neighborhoods and commercial districts, while immigrants and their families strengthen communities and bring diversity to local cultural resources.
Because more people qualify than there are visas available through the preference system each year, many close family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents end up waiting in significant backlogs. For example, spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents must wait more than two years to unite with their families, while the adult children of lawful permanent residents could wait more than 10 years. Despite the high demand for visas that result in long waiting periods, in most years, some visas allocated by statute are not used due to bureaucratic delays in processing. Under current law, these visas are wasted and cannot be used in future years.
AILA recommends the following reforms to our family-based immigration system: reduce the multi-year wait for a visa to become available, recapture family-based visas that were not used in past years, allow law-abiding families to reunite with loved ones within a humane and reasonable time period, and treat same-sex families equally in all aspects of immigration law where a qualifying family relationship is required.