By Jeanne Morales Attorney
With the backlog of cases in immigration court recently passing one million nationwide, it seems that no part of the immigration system is immune from delays that threaten to crash the system. This has now become apparent with regards to Mexican spouses of U.S. citizens that must go through “consular processing”.
A U.S. citizen who wishes to bring their foreign-born spouse to live permanently in the United States must first petition for them using form I-130, which is processed by a regional service center. The processing of the form I-130 only involves three things: does the petitioner have proof of identity and proof of U.S. citizenship, does the foreign spouse have proof of identity, and are the individuals legally married. Yet through the magic of bureaucracy that process can take 8 to 10.5 months at the Texas Service Center (The California Service Center’s processing time is at 12.5 to 16 months!).
Once the petition is approved, the National Visa Center (NVC) prepares a packet for the U.S. Consulate abroad so that the consular officer has everything they need to conduct an interview and issue a visa. The NVC takes approximately two months to issue a case number, and then the person wanting to immigrate must file a form DS-230 online. Once the intending immigrant completes the online process, they will receive a letter from the NVC that tells them that the process is complete, and they will work with the U.S. Consulate to set up the interview for the foreign spouse.
At this time, the wait time for a foreign spouse that will have to process through U.S. Consulate at Ciudad Juarez is over a year. A year long wait – not for document gathering or fee submission (already done) – but a year long wait for an appointment. This year long wait for an appointment is on top of the nearly year process for the I-130 petition and the 2-3 months for the NVC process.
A U.S. citizen bringing a spouse to the United States is just one part of the legal (do it the right way) process for immigration; but this more than two-year delay is for the spouse of a U.S. citizen – someone that the system has deemed to be an “immediate relative”. And this delay is recent – the 2017/early 2018 processing for the same spouse would have taken less than a year in total. The delays with both the I-130 petition and the NVC process have increased substantially since late 2018.
Decades of neglect and political infighting have given U.S. citizens an immigration system that is broken and on the verge of collapse. While the media blasts images of immigration law enforcement and court delays across the public psyche, an individual U.S. citizen who is only wanting to reunite his or her family, is now looking at processing time that is more than two years – and that is hardly an incentive to “do it the right way”.