If U.S. petitioner naturalizes, will son in Philippines have to wait longer for green card?

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Question:

I am a U.S. lawful permanent resident, who has filed an I-130 visa petition for my 23-year-old son in the Philippines. He has a priority date in category 2B, and we have been carefully watching the movement of dates on the Visa Bulletin, but he still seems to have many more years to wait. Now I have been thinking about submitting an N-400 application for U.S. citizenship, which would be especially helpful so that I can petition my parents to come to the U.S., as well. But someone told me that when I become a citizen, my son will automatically move to category F1. I just looked on the Visa Bulletin, and the priority dates in that category are even further away than in 2B! Should I wait to become a citizen? Bringing him here is my first concern.

Answer:

Immigrant visa applicants from the Philippines are in a unique situation. For people from every other country, the automatic category shift that happens when the U.S. petitioner naturalizes is a good thing. As you correctly describe, it moves the waiting beneficiaries from category F2B to category F1 of the visa preference system, which is a move to a higher priority level and means a shorter wait. (Of course, it’s all dependent on the demand for the limited supply of visas, but this is the usual scenario.)

But it’s different for applicants from the Philippines. Commonly, in the last several years, the wait in category F1 has actually been longer than in category F2B, which could lead to waits of a few years more. In your situation, your son would at least be able to keep his original priority date, but his overall wait would still be lengthened.

Fortunately, the U.S. government has recognized the unfairness of punishing families for having someone attain U.S. citizenship. It developed a policy, which was eventually written into law, under which the applicant can ask to remain in category F2B. The procedure for requesting this exemption (which is open to everyone, not just citizens of the Philippines) is for your son to send a letter to the Manila office of the Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/USCIS) (The State Department, which includes U.S. consulates, is not legally authorized to handle such matters). The letter should explain that your son wishes to have the F2B-to-F1 conversion revoked.

To read USCIS’s internal discussion of how it handles these cases, see the USCIS memo published March 23, 2004. Learn more on this site about family-based green cards, or consult an immigration attorney for a full personalized analysis and discussion of case strategy.

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