U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS: Immigrant visa applicants who age out of system can't 'ride on their parents' coattails'


The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals in the case of some would-be immigrants who seek visas as minors but “age out” of the system before obtaining one of the limited number of visas granted each year.

The court found that the board’s interpretation of the immigration law, which grants relief to only a portion of those who age out of the visa system, was a permissible interpretation. The court ruling upholds a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals that found that the once-minor visa applicants seeking derivative visas will have to go to the back of the visa line unless they qualify through a different route—as principal beneficiaries of a visa application.

The aged-out visa applicants in the case before the court were sons or daughters of so-called principal beneficiaries who were seeking visas because their own parents or siblings were U.S. citizens. The minors were derivative beneficiaries, piggy-backing on their parents’ visa petitions.

“Now that the respondents’ children have turned 21 and they can no longer ride on their parents’ coattails,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a plurality opinion (PDF), “that lack of independent eligibility makes a difference.”

Kagan concluded the BIA’s interpretation was entitled to deference in an opinion joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, that agreed with the BIA interpretation but disagreed with Kagan’s view of “internal tension” in the statute.

The case is Scialabba v. Cuellar de Osorio.

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