Chain migration is a system whereby immigrants to the United States who attain status as citizens or permanent residents may then petition for members of their families to join them. Priority is given to citizens first, then permanent residents. Priority is also given based on the degree of closeness of the family members petitioned. Spouses and unmarried minor children of citizens are given first priority.

Once relatives are petitioned, and become citizens or permanent residents of the U.S., themselves, they, in turn, may petition other relatives to join them.

Is Chain Migration Illegal?

There is nothing illegal about an immigrant who has become a permanent resident or citizen of the U.S. then petitioning for family members to join them. The United States has a long history of this type of immigration. However, immigration policies have become more restrictive in recent decades, making it more difficult to migrate.

Also worth mentioning: there is some debate now over the term “chain migration” in itself, because some look on this as a term with negative connotations.

Popular Misconceptions About Chain Migration

In more recent years, the term “chain migration” has become associated with negative meaning. In the same vein as other derogatory terms, such as “anchor baby,” chain migration has been used by anti-immigration individuals and has popped up in statements by politicians who favor conservative immigration laws.

While the term by itself, “chain migration,” is not necessarily derogatory, in can be used in that way. A more progressive way to describe it might be simply “family immigration.”

What are Some Problems with Chain Migration?

The biggest problem is the amount of time necessary to obtain a visa after being sponsored by a family member. People may ending up waiting for years, or even decades, before they are approved for immigration to the U.S.

Problems also arise due to the complicated nature of immigration law, which sometimes necessitates the employment of an attorney to help navigate the issues.

Finally, immigration fraud does occur, as people who are frustrated with the lengthy wait and costs may resort to illegal immigration.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Immigration Issues?

As mentioned above, immigration law can be confusing. If you or a family member is dealing with the immigration process, you may want to engage an immigration lawyer to help you figure out all the technicalities, and, possibly, to speed up the process. You will also want to use a lawyer if you need to appear in court regarding your immigration law issues.