What is Chain Migration - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

If you’re like most people, you’ve heard the term chain migration – but what is chain migration, and how does it apply to people who want to become naturalized U.S. citizens?

What is Chain Migration?

Chain migration isn’t an official term. It refers to what’s called family reunification under federal law, and it’s the process by which a U.S. green card holder or legal resident can sponsor family members for immigration to the U.S.

In fact, family reunification is the most common form of legal immigration to the U.S., with between 60 and 70 percent of all permanent immigration to the U.S. over the past 10 years being related to family ties.

Is Citizenship Automatic With Chain Migration?

The U.S. government doesn’t automatically grant citizenship to people who apply through the family reunification program. There’s a waiting period that can range between a few months to a couple of decades.

Common Misconceptions About Chain Migration

Some people are very misinformed on the concept of chain migration. These are the most common misconceptions about family reunification (and the truth behind them).

1. One immigrant can bring virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.

It is impossible for one immigrant to bring in “virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives” using chain migration. The only people an immigrant is allowed to sponsor – and only when the immigrant is an actual U.S. citizen – are spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, orphans adopted abroad, or parents if the U.S. citizen is 21 or older.

In some cases, family preference visas are available to married children of U.S. citizens and siblings of citizens.

Grandparents, aunts and uncles, in-laws and cousins cannot sponsor family based visa applications.

2. Immigrants using chain migration are a drain on the system.

When a U.S. citizen sponsors a family member to come to the U.S., he or she must prove that they can support that person financially over an extended period of time. The citizen who sponsors a family member is legally financially responsible for sponsored immigrant relatives until those relatives become U.S. citizens themselves, have worked for 10 years in the U.S., leave the country permanently or die.

3. Immigrants can flood the U.S. using chain migration.

There’s an annual cap on the number of immigrants allowed into the U.S. under each relationship category. Right now, only 23,400 unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens are given visas per year. The waiting periods can be exceptionally long, too – according to the USCIS, those who wish to sponsor a sibling are waiting an average of 13 years.

The bottom line: Most of what people believe about so-called “chain migration” is untrue. It’s always a good idea to look up the facts on the USCIS website when you hear something new about immigration and immigration policy, or contact a Milwaukee immigration lawyer who can answer your questions.

Do You Need to Talk to a Milwaukee Immigration Attorney?

If you’re interested in sponsoring a family member to come to the U.S., you could benefit from working with a Milwaukee immigration attorney who understands how the system works.

Call us at 414-383-6700 or contact us online to schedule an appointment with a Milwaukee immigration lawyer now.

Carlos Gamino