The Washington Post

Inside the immigration bill: A cut to family-based visas

A bipartisan Senate group has agreed on a sweeping legislative proposal that would represent the most ambitious overhaul of the U.S. immigration system in three decades. The Washington Post will be examining portions of the bill on Post Politics in a series of blog entries.

The Senate bill expands the opportunities for all kinds of newcomers to the U.S.: those who are undocumented, those seeking asylum, and those who want to come work temporarily in the U.S. But in the process, it also reduces the opportunities for other types of potential immigrants: The bill eliminates family-based visas for siblings and the adult children of U.S. citizens — a change that some of the most vocal supporters of immigration reform are criticizing.

The bill would eliminate the 65,000 family-based visas that are given out every year to the siblings of U.S. citizens, as well as those given to the married adult children who are 31 and older. The changes would be phased in 18 months after the bill is enacted.

The issue is likely to spark a major fight as the bill moves forward in the Senate. The AFL-CIO, which worked closely with legislators to develop the framework, has already come out in strong opposition to the family visa changes. " It’s not a good change in policy. The family has been the anchor, the core of the American immigration system," said Ana Avendano, AFL-CIO's director of immigration. "Siblings are a much a part of my family as my parents are."

The bill does create a hybrid "merit-based" system that would allocate up to 250,000 visas a year based on a wide variety of factors, including family relationships, education, employment, and length of stay in the U.S. But relatively speaking, the system would award very few points to those who are siblings, more strongly favoring those who have been in the U.S. for a long time without family ties. "As a sibling, it's going to be very difficult to get a green card," said Greg Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

That said, the bill makes it easier for other relatives to immigrate on family-based visas: the spouses and children of U.S. citizens or residents with green cards to immigrate immediately rather than having to wait for a visa. It also includes other changes to eliminate the massive backlogs in both the family and employment-based visa programs.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Democrats debated Thursday night. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Chris Cillizza on the Democratic debate...
On Clinton: She poked a series of holes in Sanders's health-care proposal and broadly cast him as someone who talks a big game but simply can't hope to achieve his goals.

On Sanders: If the challenge was to show that he could be a candidate for people other than those who already love him, he didn't make much progress toward that goal. But he did come across as more well-versed on foreign policy than in debates past.
The PBS debate in 3 minutes
We are in vigorous agreement here.
Hillary Clinton, during the PBS Democratic debate, a night in which she and Sanders shared many of the same positions on issues
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz heading into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
Fact Checker
Trump’s claim that his border wall would cost $8 billion
The billionaire's claim is highly dubious. Based on the costs of the Israeli security barrier (which is mostly fence) and the cost of the relatively simple fence already along the U.S.-Mexico border, an $8 billion price tag is simply not credible.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.