The Race to the U.S. Embassy Gates

 

In 2013, there were 436,639 Filipinos racing to get to the U.S. Embassy gates.

According to the U.S. State Department Report of that year, 436,639 visa beneficiaries in the Philippines in the various Family and Employment-based categories were competing for the limited 25,620 visas (per country allocation) issued every year.

The race got tougher April this year.

The 25,620 per country limit for immigrant visas causes migration gridlock worldwide especially in four countries that historically have the most number of applicants waiting in line: Mexico, the Philippines, India and China.

In next month’s Visa Bulletin from the U.S. State Department, the cut-off dates should be of interest to two Family-based categories – the F1 (Over 21 unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens) and the F2B (Over 21 unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents, popularly known as green card holders.

These two categories are racing against each other. Beneficiaries (Filipinos who were petitioned by their parents) face the dilemma of deciding whether to change category from one to the other.

A change in visa category (in these two classifications) occurs in the following scenarios.

First, when the son or daughter of a green card holder marries causing automatic revocation of the petition since there is no classification for married sons and daughter of green card holders.

Second, when the petitioner of an F2B petition becomes a U.S. citizen. The change in the immigration status of the petitioner causes an automatic change of category of the beneficiary from F2B to F1.  The son or daughter waiting in the Philippines would have to check whether he or she would face a longer wait.  Consulting the off-track betting record becomes imperative.

For the month of April 2010 to 2014, the F2B category had been leading the F1. See table below:

Category

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

F2B

9/15/98

12/01/99

12/08/01

715/02

6/08/03

4/01/04

F1

3/01/94

4/01/95

6/22/97

2/15/99

11/01/01

2/01/05

However, for April this year, the F1 thoroughbred zoomed ahead by 3 years and3 months, leaving the F2B competitor by 10 months.

Under the Child Status Protection Act of 2002, the beneficiary of an F2B petition (son/daughter of a green card holder) may choose to remain in this category instead of being automatically converted to F1 once the petitioner becomes a U.S. citizen.  This is called the ‘opt-out’ option.

Because the F2B had been leading the cut-off date races since 2002 and 2003 (a year after the opt-out conversion took effect) beneficiaries in this category chose to remain unmarried. 

Petitioners (the parent who filed the petition) who want to become U.S. citizens - but were not aware of the opt-out option - chose to remain green card holders to take advantage of the fast movement of the F2B category, as opposed to the trotting F1 visa racehorse.

For petitioners in the know, they advise their sons or daughter to apply to opt-out of being automatically converted so that the petitioner could pursue U.S. Citizenship (and avail of federal government benefits) instead of remaining a green card holder simply to keep the son or daughter’s category (F2B).

The problem is, once a beneficiary gets approval to remain an F2B, there is no option to change category to F1 if this classification moves faster than the F2B counterpart.

The April 2015 Visa Bulletin becomes a source of despair and anxiety for those who have opted out.

Next month, the F1 moved ahead by three years and three months, passing the F2B classification and moving forward faster to the finish line (interview at the U.S. Embassy and issuance of the immigrant visa).

What happened?

The ability to opt-out or remain an F2B beneficiary (instead of being automatically converted to F1) once the petitioner becomes a U.S. citizen resulted in more petitioners pursuing their U.S. citizenships. At the same time, more beneficiaries of the F2B category increased in the numbers, thinning the numbers of those waiting in the F1 classification, in effect shortening the line – and the visa date wait.

As stated before, there is no way to request to revert to the F1 category.

The other Family-based categories do not have this problem. 

In the Employment-based category, the beneficiaries of the EB3 (for professionals, skilled workers) as well as the OW (Other Workers, semi or unskilled) their horses continue to gallop together towards the finish line faster and in-sync.

From 2005 to 2011, the EB3 category had left the OW in the dust.  In 2011, the OW was just a tail behind the EB3: both were on the same year.  The OW cutoff date in April 2011 was Jan. 1, 2006, only 14 days behind the EB3 (Jan. 15, 2006).

From January 2012 to April 2015, these two categories have moved forward closer to the gates of the U.S. Embassy together.

Down Under, the race to qualify as an Aged Care Worker in Australia also turned fast and furious.

Australia’s population is ageing rapidly while in the horizon the brewing storm of shortage of qualified aged care workers loom.

To keep up with this potential crisis, the Australian government created a program “Living Longer, Living Better” allocating billions of dollars to avert this shortage. An excerpt to the Australian parliament report below amplifies this preparation:

“According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were some 216,300 workers in residential care services in May 2013, mainly in the aged care sector. There were also 356,500 workers in social assistance, most in child care or disability services. Over 80% of these workers were women, and nearly half were employed part-time. These sectors have struggled to attract and retain workers, due to the relatively low pay rates and lack of secure employment opportunities.

In addition, health professionals continue to be in short supply with a range of occupations appearing on the immigration skilled occupations list. Nurses are in particular demand, with Health Workforce Australia (HWA) estimating that there will be a shortage of over 100,000 nurses by 2025.”

How will Filipino healthcare workers benefit from this?  That is our next week’s topic.

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