How Long Legal Immigration Takes

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said a lot about immigration. During a Republican debate last year, he said: “We have a country of borders…We have a country of laws. We have to obey the laws. It’s fine if they come in, but they have to come in legally.”

People, including Trump, think it’s easier to immigrate to the U.S. legally than it really is, but it actually takes a lot longer than most people think.

As law professor Neils W. Frenzen, director of University of Southern California’s immigration clinic, told ATTN:, “This is a largely held belief, but it’s based upon a complete lack of understanding. It assumes there is a path for everyone, and there is not.”

In reality, the length of time the immigration application process depends under which category you fall. An application can take anywhere from a few months to several decades to be approved.

Here are the categories of people who may legally immigrate to the U.S.:

Immediate relative and family sponsored, which includes subcategories for the spouse of a U.S. citizen, the fiancé to marry a U.S. citizen and live in the U.S., inter-country adoption of orphan children by U.S. citizens, certain family members of U.S. citizens, and certain family members of lawful permanent residents.

Employer sponsored, including employment-based immigrants (such as professionals holding advanced degrees and persons of exceptional ability, professionals and other workers, employment creation and investors), religious workers, Iraqi and Afghan translators/interpreters, Iraqis who worked for/on behalf of the U.S. government, Afghans who worked for/on behalf of the U.S. government.

Diversity immigrant visa.

Returning resident

The fastest route is for people with immediate family who are U.S. citizens. Frenzen says this is the one category of family sponsored visas not subjected to quotas and for which there is no waiting list.

By TRICIA TONGCO for attn:
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