Visa Crunch

USA: 3.5 Lakh Indians Stare At Uncertain Future Over Green Card Backlog

Given the current congestion, approximately 3,57,720 Indians have been unable to finish their applications for an employment-based green card, despite the fact that they have been processed, according to data provided by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

This is over eight times the number of applicants received by China, which ranks second with 46,926.

“These are the principal applicants who have an approved I-140 and are waiting to either file their I-485 application or who may have filed utilizing the filing chart, but their priority dates are actually not current under the final action chart,” said Nandini Nair, partner at Greenspoon Marder, a law firm.

When the I-140, or preliminary application for citizenship, is authorized, the applicants can apply for an adjustment of status. “There is a substantial backlog for Indian nationals as they are the highest percentage of applicants for the employment-based green card,” Nair said.

The waiting times and the queue is so long that without Congressional intervention to improve the employment-based green card system, a major portion of these applicants may never receive their green cards.

Skilled Indian workers currently account for 75 per cent of the approximately 1.2 million immigrants awaiting an employment-based green card, with some Indians facing a wait of up to 84 years. A quarter of those applicants are “documented dreamers,” who are dependents of visa holders who would eventually outgrow their place in line.

Organizations constantly sponsor permanent residency for employees in order to retain highly trained labour. According to USCIS data, American technology corporations such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Cognizant have appeared as some of the leading sponsors of green cards for their employees in recent years.

Two petitions are added to the line for every new green card issued. The already unmanageable backlog is predicted to grow by 2030.

Slow processing combined with strong demand has culminated in a rising backlog for Indian applications over time. The United States issues 1,40,000 green cards each year, subject to a 7% per nation limit. The restrictions are irrational and fundamentally unjust, a relic of an immigration system that historically prioritized European migrants without regard for the size of the country or demand for visas.

A Norwegian national, for example, will have to wait for less time for a green card than the 74,000 Indians and 23,000 Chinese who are stuck in immigration limbo.

“Chronic and unconscionable delays have become an integral part of the USCIS and other immigration processes…,” said Rajiv S Khanna, managing attorney at “While we can understand some delays that have been built into the process by statute, such as country-based immigration, processing delays of a year or more in benefits that should require only minutes to adjudicate are uncivilized.”

Immigration reforms have been advocated by companies and pro-immigration lawmakers based on the arguments that they would assist the United States to retain highly trained workers while also benefiting the local economy. Although major initiatives to effect regulatory change have failed to pass muster in the United States Congress.

In an ideal world, a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration laws would entail matching the federal supply of green cards to the demand for permanent residency among temporary workers. Eliminating per-country immigration caps for employment-based visas will break the applicant bottleneck, greatly benefiting our national economy.

Unfortunately, even while such bills exist, there is little momentum for a bipartisan grand agreement to take these ideas forward.

While Congress is well aware of the problems, little has been done to address them. The disdain for its own needs supplied by immigration is typical of systemic dysfunction in a society that claims to be an immigrant nation.

The Build Back Better has been recently proposed which may lead to substantial immigration reforms. The Bill needs to be cleared by the Senate before it can become law although it has been passed by the US House of Representatives.

With the future of Build Back Better in jeopardy, Congress may seek to divide the omnibus measure into smaller pieces that can get broad support. The first successful green card recapture was a Republican-sponsored bill, with even Texas’ senior senator, John Cornyn, signalling months ago that he’d support a separate bill.

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