The long wait for family reunification

“I still remember the year that we applied for the immigration process, when your sister was six years old and you were only three years old.” This is the beginning of my mother’s story, and it actually affected our whole family.

My mother applied for family reunification in 2001, a few years after my uncle had immigrated legally to the United States. She applied as the biological sister of my uncle. Some people apply for family reunification because they are separated either from children or from their husband or wife. Unlike those people, none of my family members were separated from others in the immediate family.

I was told about immigrating to the United States when I was six years old, but our family actually got the visa when I was fifteen years old. That was thirteen years of waiting, and my parents almost gave up the thought of immigration. The uncertain time frame for getting the visa brought hardship to the family.

“The most regretful thing I have done so far in my life is selling the house quickly,” my mother said. When I was eleven years old, my uncle told my mother that we could come to the United States very soon. To prepare money for our future life in the United States, my parents sold the house we were living in. But we then had to rent a house to live in because we actually had to wait four more years for immigration after the house was sold.

My mother’s story isn’t unique. Many people who have been processed for family reunification or are on the way to family reunification actually share the same story. Some have already come to the United States, but some are still waiting to come. The long wait for family reunification can create a tough situation for a family, especially if children are separated from parents or a single parent has to raise children by themself.

People never know on what day they will receive their visa or where they are in the process. For family reunification, some groups of people actually are processed faster, but other groups of people may have to wait about a decade. The immigration case will transfer to the National Visa Center and the U.S. Department of State will publish the monthly Visa Bulletin of who has gotten visas.

According to “Family Reunification” by Ramah McKay (, people are divided into two big groups regarding family reunification. These two groups are “immediate relatives of U.S. citizens” and “family sponsorship according to preference categories.” Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens include non-native spouses of U.S. citizens, unmarried minor children of U.S. citizens who are age twenty-one or under, orphans adopted by U.S. citizens, and parents of U.S. citizens who are over age twenty-one.

The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens have no limitation on the number of immigrant visas given out each year.

According to “How to Get a Foreign Family Member Into the U.S.” by Ilona Bray (, family sponsorship has four preference categories. The first preference is unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens of any age; the second is spouses, minor children, and unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents. The third preference is married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, as well as their spouses and minor children; the fourth is brothers and sisters of a U.S. citizen, as well as their spouse and minor children.

Unlike immediate relatives, this group of people is subject to annual quotas in visas according to the country where the applicant was born. Because the number of applicants is much larger than the number of available visas, it mostly leads to a long wait for decades. The first preference category will be the ones who get processed the fastest and the fourth preference category will be the ones who get processed the slowest.

The long wait for family reunification creates hardship for a family, especially if they fall into the fourth group. Despite the hardships people have to overcome, they still want to come to the United States because of education, freedom, safety, or other things they are looking for. My mother’s story isn’t the beginning or the end of family reunification, and the story of family reunification will still go on.

This entry was posted in Student Writing Gallery.

Comments are closed.