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Reviewing family preference immigration quotas

Many around the world have aspirations of immigrating to the U.S. and settling in areas like Louisville. Yet given the complexities of U.S. immigration law, some of those who have this goal will first seek to obtain legal entrance to and residency in the country themselves and then send for the families to join them. This can often ease some of the restrictions potential immigrants face when applying for entry to the country due to the fact that preference is given to applicants who already have family members here. There is, however, a quota on the number of immigrants allowed entry through the family preference program

Per the Congressional Research Service, those who qualify for the family preference program include applicants sponsored by family members and those who are immediately relatives. In this case, "immediate relatives" are considered to be: 

  • Spouses
  • Parents 
  • Unmarried minor children

The U.S. government allocates 480,000 visas annually for family-sponsored applicants. Of those, 23,400 are reserved for unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens, 87,900 for spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents, 26,300 for unmarried adult children of legal permanent residents, 23,400 for married adult children of U.S. citizens, and 65,000 for siblings of U.S. citizens. Special rules also exist to distribute any unused visas from a particular category to the others. 

Many refer to the family preference immigration quota as "permeable cap," given that even though only 480,000 visas are reserved for these types of immigrants each year, the actual number issued is typically much higher. This is because no limit is placed on the number of visas available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. Any unused employment visas from the previous year are also reserved for family-preference applicants. Indeed, according to the Pew Research Center, 804,793 visas where issued through the family preference program in 2016. 

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