Demystifying U.S. Immigration: Obstacles to the process

Critics reasonably argue that aliens need to apply for permission to enter the U.S. and wait their turn for approval. This argument is good in theory, but it does not point to the limitations imposed on aliens and their dependents who are trying to relocate to the U.S. There are three ways an alien can enter the U.S. legally:

  1. on humanitarian grounds, such as through asylum, for those facing persecution in their home county. There is a limited segment of aliens who fall under this option – between 2007 and 2011 the number of aliens requesting asylum and the number of asylum cases completed fell by 29 percent.
  2. a U.S. citizen family member petitions for you. Few aliens have this connection, and the quota for this type of visa is quite small. There is a per-country limit that is calculated each fiscal year and depends on the total number of family-sponsored and employment-based visas available. No more than 7 percent of the visas may be issued to natives of any one independent country in a fiscal year; no more than 2 percent may be issued to any one dependency of any independent country. Between the preference system and per-country limits, most countries do not reach this level of visa issuance.
  3. an employer sponsorship. This visa quota is also small, and the employer must show that there is a limited number of Americans who could do the job. For unskilled jobs (requiring less than two years of training or experience), the quota is limited to 5,000 people total – including accompanying family members.

Trying to come to the U.S. legally is virtually impossible. It is expensive and there is a large backlog of applicants. Trying to go through the system can take years. For most aliens trying to make a better life by moving to the U.S., this just isn’t an option. Americans have a comparably easier time in most other countries trying to make a life abroad, so it is not always easy to see or understand the hardships that aliens face trying to come to the U.S.