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What Is Chain Migration?

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on February 07, 2018

When United States citizens or lawful permanent residents sponsor their family members to enable them to move to the U.S., this family reunification process is often referred to as chain migration. Although family-based immigration is vital to the integration of immigrants into society, the Trump administration’s new DACA deal aims to prevent chain migration.

Achieving Success with Chain Migration

Through family-based immigration, American citizens and lawful permanent residents can more effectively build strong social and economic support systems that assist them in achieving success in the United States. However, many anti-immigration organizations such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform have attempted to eliminate chain migration, deeming it to be a process that increases the number of unskilled immigrants who are only granted citizenship because of family connections.

How Chain Migration Works

When foreign-born immigrants are admitted to the United States to contribute their skills or talents, they are allowed to bring their spouses and unmarried minor children with them. Once the original immigrant or family member becomes a permanent resident, he or she is allowed to sponsor other family members including parents, adult children, siblings, and others. Chain migration is completed by order of preference.

  • 1st Preference: Unmarried sons/daughters of citizens and their children
  • 2nd Preference: Spouses, children, and unmarried adult children of green card holders
  • 3rd Preference: Married adult children of citizens, their spouses, and children
  • 4th Preference: Siblings of citizens (over 21), their spouses and children

Restricting the Entry of Family Members

The number of immigrants who have been approved for visas through family connections is the lowest it’s been in over a decade, according to a recent Reuters report. New interview requirements for fiance visas, additional hurdles for the approval of H-1B visas, closer scrutiny to root out fraud and the overall slowdown in adjudications of family-based visas have caused the number of approvals to drop by nearly 25 percent.

Family-based immigration is a time-consuming process and it can take decades for visas to become available. Once an immigrant arrives in the country on a visa, he or she needs to wait to become a permanent resident before the sponsorship of family members is even an option. And even after sponsorship becomes possible, it can take years before a family member is admitted into the U.S.