Why Legally Immigrating to America is Difficult

Immigration has always been a significant topic during election season. While this year is no different, many American citizens lack the understanding of the immigration process. Even Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump believes it is easier to immigrate to the United States in a legal manner than it actually is.

But in reality, legal immigration is a drawn-out, tedious process. The length of time it takes for application approval can be anywhere from a few months to several decades.

The following are the categories of people who may legally immigrate to the U.S.:

  • Immediate relative and family-sponsored, including spouses of U.S. citizens, fiancés to marry U.S. citizens and live in the country, international adoption of orphan children by U.S. citizens, specific family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
  • Employer sponsored, such as immigrant professionals with advanced degrees and/or exceptional abilities, employment creators and investors, religious workers, translators/interpreters, or immigrants who work for/on behalf of the U.S. government.
  • Diversity immigrant visa
  • Returning resident

Family-Sponsored Immigration

While the quickest route is those with immediate family who are U.S. citizens, immigrants commonly experience bureaucratic delays during processing. Common obstacles that immigrants may face include having a criminal background, identification issues, as well as “the public charge ground of inadmissibility,” which means the likelihood of an individual becoming dependent on government subsistence through receiving public cash assistance for income maintenance or long-term medical care at government expense.

In order to avoid “the public charge ground of inadmissibility,” the individual’s sponsor must prove that he or she has an annual income of not less than 125% of the federal poverty level. These sponsors must have proper income to demonstrate they could support their current families and those immigrating to the U.S. While this may not be an issue for the wealthy or middle class, it can be quite challenging, and perhaps impossible, for working class or those with lower incomes.

However, if a person does not fall into the immediate family category, the wait for an immigration visa can be extremely long. For example, brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens interested in emigrating from the Philippines are placed on a waitlist that has a 23-year backlog, since the Philippines have met its annual quota for the past 23 years.

According to NPR, the “line” for legal immigration is already around four million people long. The wait for a green card can take decades.

Employer-Sponsored Immigration

Another fast way to immigration is employer sponsorship. However, this is typically reserved for foreign workers who are considered outstanding in their fields, such as award-winning scientists, internationally renowned artists, or CEOs of multinational companies. It is important to understand that a majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. consists of low-skilled workers who do not possess exceptional skills, graduate degrees, or helpful employers.

So Why Do Immigrants Typically Enter the U.S. Illegally?

While common reasons include family relationships and employment opportunities, there is also those who are “forced” to immigrate due to dangerous and life-threatening conditions in their home country. Not only is immigration about taking advantage of the opportunities available in the U.S., but also about survival.

If you are facing legal obstacles in the process of immigrating to the U.S., contact Sintsirmas & Mueller and speak with our experienced and skilled immigration lawyers. 50+ years of combined legal experience in Cleveland and surrounding areas!