SINCE May 2010, the priority dates in all family-based categories for Filipinos have advanced rapidly. In April 2010, the unmarried son or daughter of a green card holder faced a 12-year wait for a visa. However, according to the US Department of State’s recently-issued August 2010 visa bulletin, that wait has been reduced to only nine years. Over 21-year-old unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens have seen their wait reduced by nearly two years. The wait for married sons and daughters of US citizens has been reduced by over two years. Even brothers and sisters of US citizens have had their wait reduced by over two years.

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Family-based immigration accounts for over half of immigrants entering the United States each year. Since the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act that introduced family-based immigration, 65 percent of all US immigrant visas have been given to family members of US citizens and green card holders.

However, US immigration law places annual limits on the number of family visas that can be awarded each year.

These laws cap the number of immigrants who can come to the United States both by country and by relationship category.

Consequently, countries with the most people hoping to immigrate to the United States face the longest waits for visa availability.

Regrettably, citizens of the Philippines face some of the longest waiting times in the world for family-based immigration to the United States. In fact, a Filipino petitioned by his or her US citizen brother or sister faces an overwhelming 22-year wait.

However, recent trends indicate that wait times for Filipinos petitioned by US citizen or permanent resident family members are decreasing.

However, the best news is for spouses and children under 21 years old of green card holders. Their wait has been reduced by almost three years. The present priority date cutoff in this category is March 1, 2009. Anyone petitioned in this category with a priority date before that is now eligible to apply for a visa.

Moreover, any new petitions filed in this category face only a year and five months wait. This is an incredibly short waiting period, especially for Philippine citizens.

Unfortunately, history has shown us that such gains in priority dates can be short-lived. As such, it is of the utmost importance that immigrants whose priority dates have become current take advantage of this progression as quickly as possible.