There are likely millions of people abroad (and in the U.S.) "waiting in line" to become lawful permanent residents and acquire their "green card" based on a petition filed by a relative (parents, spouse, siblings) or employer. They monitor the Department of State's Visa Bulletin (here) hopelessly wondering when it will be their turn.
There are provisions in our immigration laws that make it better to be from one country over another. This has to do with the quota system that governs a major part of when person gets to immigrate to the U.S. With the exception of immediate relatives, for the most part those who immigrate to the U.S. do so under the family-based or employment-based preference system. The number of persons who can immigrate in any one year under one of the family-based or employment-based preference systems is limited. There are also caps placed concerning the number of people who can immigrate in any one year from a particular country. In effect, there is a quota system in place.
The quota system is based on a person’s place of birth, not their nationality. Immigration laws usually treat someone based on their country of birth. In some scenarios, a person can use their spouse’s place of birth instead of their own to receive an important advantage. This is called “cross-chargeability”. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are unaware of this concept and fail to take advantage of it.
Cross-chargeability is important because, as stated above, visas are based on quotas, and certain countries have more people applying for green cards under certain preference categories so it might take significantly longer to get a green card if you are born in one country rather than another.
For example, under family-based petitions, a married Mexican who is sponsored by his USC father. Could face about a 17-20 years waiting period for a green card. This is true for a Mexican national petitioned by a U.S. citizen sibling as well. If that Mexican were married to someone from Guatemala or Argentina (for example), the current waiting period could be cut 5-8 years.
There are other ways to qualify for cross-chargeability other than through marriage. Additionally, cross-chargeability can also be used in certain employment-based petition processes. I recommend you contact our office if you seek assistance with applying under cross-chargeability, or for more information see 8 C.F.R. § 42.12.
For more than 8 years, Immigration Attorney Mario Zapata has been assisting people with immigration, green card or visa issues. For more information on how our Orange County Immigration Law Firm can help, please call us at (714) 441-2800, email us, or visit our office at 1100 E. Orangethorpe Avenue, Suite 200C, Anaheim, CA 92801.
Mario Zapata is an immigration attorney practicing out of Orange County, CA and represents clients nationwide.