We thank Michael W. Klein, of The Fletcher School, Tufts University, for co-authoring this post.
This blog post originally appeared as an article in Econofact and is being reprinted on our blog with Econofact’s permission.
The term “chain migration” is currently being used to describe a process in which one legal immigrant can generate many new admissions by sponsoring his or her relatives — each of whom, in turn, leads to even more immigrants. President Donald Trump called for an end to “chain migration” in his State of the Union address on January 30, 2018, stating that: “…a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.” While immigrants admitted on the basis of family ties constitute the largest share of new permanent residents each year, the potential for an ever-expanding chain is constrained. Under current law, family-based immigrant visas are limited to a small number of categories of close relatives, many of which have numerical limits and are subject to caps by country of origin. As a result, there are long wait times, of years or even decades, for many family-based immigrant visas. Furthermore, family members are subject to extensive background and security checks, and financial support by U.S. residents must be established for them to obtain visas.