It is always hard to be away from our parents. Having been petitioned by a parent, we look forward to have our visas available and to come to the United States soon. To comply with rules that promise less number of years of waiting, visa applicants choose not to marry because having marital status means a longer waiting period, at least 23 years!
The visa applicants are usually unmarried children (over 21 years old) of lawful permanent residents (designated as F2B) and U.S. citizens (F1). F2Bs are luckier than F1s because their waiting period is at least 7 years; F1s’ waiting time is 13 years.
It is an endurance test. A lot of undesirable things can happen during the waiting period. The children age out and/or marry or the petitioner dies. It is very common for them to start a family with a common-law wife and minor children. They will marry legally after they become lawful permanent residents (LPR). As for children of F2Bs and F1s, they can actually travel with them as “derivatives” as long as they are minors. They can also “follow to join” within a year, still as derivative-beneficiaries.
What happens when they do not travel (or “follow to join”) with the F1s and the F2Bs to the United States?
Daniel, an F1 (child of a US citizen), arrives in the U.S. after 15 years of waiting. His mother had pleaded with him to remain unmarried because she heard that the waiting time is not excruciatingly long when he is single. He complied with her request but then had a daughter when he was 23 years old. By the time his visa became available, he and his partner had five children – 17, 15, 12, 10 and 8 years old. Sadly, he could not afford to bring any of them. Besides, he and his partner believed that he has to establish his roots first before he brings the family to the US.
As a struggling immigrant, he did not have extra money to hire an immigration lawyer. This made him decide to process his children’s petitions on his own. By then three long years had passed, and as a lawful permanent resident (LPR) this was his only option. So he filed a petition for his eldest daughter when she was already 20 years old. Petitioning as a LPR means a wait of almost two years for the visa to be available for processing (F2-A) for a minor child. By then, Daniel’s daughter would have “aged out” and would not be able to travel on the second year of waiting as expected.
But she does not lose her place or her priority number as long as Daniel remains a lawful permanent resident for another seven years as her status changes from that of an F2-A (minor child of a LPR) to an F2-B (unmarried, over 21 child of a LPR).
Daniel can, however, apply for U.S. citizenship as long as he “opts out” after becoming one in order to preserve his daughter’s original priority number (with a wait of only seven years instead of 13 years). Not knowing the ramifications of U.S. immigration law literally adds years to your life. On the other hand, when the petition is filed by a U.S. citizen for a minor child, the visa is immediately available after the petition is approved.
Later you may ask, what should have I done? Immigrants coming to America seem lost, and it is not surprising for them to experience “culture shock.” What is unacceptable is gullibility by listening to “chismis” or whisperings in the grapevine instead of seeking proper legal advice on a particular issue. If one has to spend those hard-earned dollars for consultation on a legal immigration issue that would save 7 or 10 or 23 years of waiting, there is no question that this is the right thing to do.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, so they say. If Daniel had asked an immigration attorney, he would have been advised or urged to file his petition as soon as he arrived in the U.S. and obtained his LPR card. His daughter would have arrived in the United States at age 19.
Hopefully, he has learned his lesson and thus brings the rest of his minor children to the United States while they are still young.