After a slow turnaround during the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has seen a fast rebound of its legal migration processes, enabling it to issue nearly half a million permanent visas to immigrants this year.
The State Department reported that from September 2021 to September 2022, the US had granted 493,000 visas, a 73% increase from the previous period and a 7% increase from 2019.
Vietnam nationals were granted the sixth-highest number of immigrant visas. Mexican citizens received the highest visas to immigrate permanently to the US.
The immigrant visas, which can either be employment-based or family-sponsored, are issued to foreign nationals who intend to live permanently in the US. The visa will eventually lead to permanent status through green cards or citizenship, which many aspire to get. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services approved more than 545,000 green card applications this year.
Vietnamese were also among the top 10 receivers of immigrant visas in 2021, having granted more than 10,000 immigrant visas. Mexico still topped the list with nearly 40,600 immigrant visas. US’ next-door neighbor, Canada, was far behind the list — ranked 43rd after only receiving 1,464 visas.
While visa approvals have already seen a strong rebound this year, there remains a massive backlog of unprocessed applications. There are currently 377,953 immigrant visa applicants waiting to be interviewed at US consulates, compared to the 60,866 pre-pandemic monthly backlog average.
In an interview with CBS News, Julie Stufft, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for visa services, explained the US had reduced the immigrant visa backlog by 30%, including by hiring additional consular officers. She said the department understands the process is “central to people's ability to see their families and visit, study, and work in the United States.”
Immigrants account for around 15% of the total US population. The country has implemented a federal ceiling of 700,000 visas issued annually. Certain countries also have specific caps on how many of their citizens can receive immigrant visas per their relations with the United States.
The American dream
Many Vietnamese dream of living in the US, where they believe they could have a more comfortable life and earn more than enough to put food on the table. Moving to the world’s most powerful nation involves a lengthy process and many legal documents before getting granted an immigrant visa.
But the long queue of people at the US Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City proves that Vietnamese are willing to endure it all for their American dream.
Data show that about 2.2 million people of Vietnamese descent reside in the US, making up the fourth-largest Asian American group.
Among working Vietnamese Americans, 32.9% had management, business, science, and arts occupations; 30.9% had service occupations; 17.0% had sales and office occupations; 4.3% had reported natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations; and 15% had natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations.
In 2019, the median household income for all Vietnamese Americans was $69,800, according to US Census Bureau.
Over the years, Vietnamese immigration to the US has continued at a fairly steady pace. There had also been significant milestones that further established the Vietnamese community in the US. From the opening of the first Vietnamese American Service Center in California, which took ten years to complete, and the appointment of Margaret Vo Schaus as chief financial officer of NASA in 2021, among many other remarkable events, Vietnamese immigrants have become an integral part of the American society.
The flourishing relations between the US and Vietnam have also created favorable paths for Vietnamese to grab educational and employment opportunities abroad. As reiterated by US Consul General for HCMC Susan Burns at the recently concluded Vietnam Innovators Summit, the US fully recognizes the importance of Vietnam as one of its major partners in the Asia Pacific region.
“By the formal framework of foreign relations, Vietnam and the US are in a comprehensive partnership, but I hope that during my term, we can elevate that to a strategic partnership. But without the label, the level of cooperation between us and the interest for cooperation is very high.”