Immigration reform bill could remove some family visa caps

Federal lawmakers are currently considering several major changes to the U.S. immigration laws, including a proposal that would remove the caps on some visa categories. If passed, the bill would permit an unlimited number of visas to be issued each year to certain family members of green card holders.

Current family visa laws

Under current U.S. immigration law, only the immediate family members of U.S. citizens are eligible to receive an unlimited number of family immigration visas each year. The law defines immediate family members as the spouse, parents or minor children of a U.S. citizen.

In contrast, current immigration laws are more restrictive with regard to family members of green card holders, also known as lawful permanent residents. Existing law limits family visas for permanent residents to the spouse or children of the green card holder; parents of green card holders are not typically eligible for family-based visas under current law.

Unlike visas for family members of U.S. citizens, which are unlimited, only a set number of visas may be issued each year for family members of green card holders. Currently, the annual limit on visas in this category is set at 88,000.

Because the number of people who qualify for these visas each year exceeds the number available, a backlog has developed. As a result, relatives of green card holders wishing to enter the U.S. on a family visa typically must wait approximately two years before receiving a visa, ABC News reported.

Proposed changes to green card family visas

If passed in its current form, the Senate immigration bill would broaden the definition of immediate family for green card holders, allowing more relatives of permanent residents to obtain family immigration visas. The bill also proposes removing the annual cap on visas in this category. If the bill becomes law, it could eliminate the backlog of eligible applicants and allow permanent residents to be reunited with their families more quickly after obtaining a green card.

Some supporters of the measure hope that the proposed changes could help attract skilled professionals to the United States by making it easier for them to bring their families with them. But while the bill would expand visa availability in some categories, it would make cutbacks in other areas. For instance, under the proposed law, family visas would no longer be available for siblings of U.S. citizens, or for married children over the age of 31.

Contact an attorney for immigration help

If you have questions about an immigration issue affecting you or a loved one, consider talking your situation over with an experienced immigration lawyer. An attorney with an in-depth understanding of U.S. immigration matters can explain how the law applies to your specific circumstances and can act as a powerful advocate on your behalf in any immigration proceeding.