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Asian American groups urge you to file for any family visas now

Under the current version of the immigration reform proposal making its way through Congress, U.S. citizens and green card holders may no longer be able to sponsor those relatives U.S. immigration law categorizes as "lower preference," such as siblings and married adult children, for lawful permanent residency. While the bill is unlikely to be passed this session, limitations on family immigration are likely to be included, or at least used as a bargaining chip, in the final bill.

According to the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Asians are more reliant on family immigration than most other groups. In fact nearly half of all immigrants seeking family visas are from Asia. Even now, immigration opportunities are limited for "lower preference" family members. An application backlog has stretched the waiting time for siblings and married children of citizens to get green cards to as long as two decades, in certain cases.

With that in mind, a number of Asian American advocacy groups are urging people to act now if they plan to sponsor relatives for family immigration -- or the opportunity to do so may disappear.

"We're saying file now, if you're thinking about it," says the head of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles. "Then you'll be in line if a bill passes and diminishes the ability to file."

While family immigration is of particular concern to Asians, a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants is also a high priority in immigration reform. Of the estimated 11 million unauthorized migrants in the U.S., more than a million are thought to be from China, Vietnam, Korea or the Philippines.

Asians are less enthusiastic about the current reform bill than other groups, if we accept immigration lawyer and former California state assemblyman Mike Eng as an exemplar. He expressed outrage at the reform effort having been focused primarily on employment-based immigration for high-skilled workers who promise immediate economic benefits to the U.S. Particularly for the Asian American community, these priorities come as a bit of a shock.

"This is the most far-reaching, invasive and detrimental proposal for immigration reform on the Asian American community in at least the last four to six decades," he told reporters.

Even if you're not from an Asian background, the advocacy groups' advice is sound. If you're considering sponsoring a family member for a green card -- especially if that family member is categorized as "lower preference" -- apply as soon as possible to preserve your best chance of success.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Asians urged to apply for family visas, in case they're done away with," Cindy Chang, July 30, 2013

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