The United States is facing a huge problem: a backlog of 1.8 million people waiting for employment-based green cards. This includes a major struggle for Indian nationals who are stuck waiting the longest.
This backlog mainly involves immigrants who have been supported by US employers or investors. But because there are only a certain number of green cards allowed each year for these groups, many deserving people are stuck waiting for a long time. There’s also a rule that no single country can get more than 7 percent of the green cards, which makes the issue even more complex.
Indians are particularly affected, with 1.1 million of them waiting in this queue. This means they’re facing the longest wait times and many challenges as they try to get their green cards.
Getting a Green Card involves two main steps. First, an employer asks for permission for an immigrant worker. If all the green cards for that year have been given out, the request has to wait. The next step is when the worker can officially apply for a green card once a spot opens up. This process is similar for investors and special immigrants, like people who helped in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As of March 2023, around 171,635 people, including the families of workers, had 80,324 requests waiting (called I-140, I-360, and I-526 petitions). Additionally, there were 1.3 million cases on hold, and 289,000 cases waiting for their green card applications to be processed. We don’t have numbers for how many people are waiting for visas from US consulates abroad, but it’s possible that some numbers might be counted twice.
The Problem with the Backlog
Most of the backlog falls into different categories. More than half are in the EB-2 category, which is for people with advanced degrees working for US companies. Another 19 percent are in the EB-3 category, meant for people with at least a bachelor’s degree. About 13 percent are special immigrants in the EB-4 category. There’s also the EB-5 category, which is for investors creating jobs in the US, making up 6 percent. The remaining 3 percent are EB-3O workers who don’t need a college degree for their jobs.
Surprisingly, 63 percent of the entire backlog, which is 1.1 million cases, are from India. China makes up another 14 percent, which is almost 250,000 cases. The countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala together account for almost 10 percent, mainly in the EB-4 category.
The Long Waits
For Indians applying now, the wait for both the EB-2 and EB-3 categories is incredibly long – 134 years! Shockingly, about 424,000 applicants are predicted to pass away while waiting for their green cards, and over 90 percent of them are Indians. This is especially sad because Indians make up half of all new applicants sponsored by employers. This means a lot of them might never actually get their green cards.
Chinese applicants in similar categories have to wait a staggering 17 years. The situation isn’t much better for people from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala in the EB-4 category.
Changes in Rules and Moving Forward
The Biden administration has recently changed the way the rules work for the EB-4 category. This is so that countries like the Northern Triangle nations and Mexico can get more green cards, even if it means other countries get fewer. But even with this change, these countries will still face many decades of waiting.
This huge backlog highlights the pressing need for big changes in the system for employment-based green cards. Fixing this complicated issue requires action from policymakers, people who support immigrants, and legal experts. At Maureen Donovan Law Office, we’re committed to providing advice and information to help navigate the tricky world of immigration. This will hopefully lead to a more fair and efficient process for getting green cards.