Due to extreme visa backlogs, thousands of families have to wait up to twenty years or more for the promise of permanency in the United States. So it's easy to imagine how frustrated people feel in finding out that there are over 400,000 green cards sitting unused, even though they were allocated by law in previous years to be issued to qualifying applicants.
How does that happen, you may ask? Well, like you may have read in our blogs in the last year and a half, USCIS is often unable to process all the applications that are submitted to it.
Last year when the pandemic started, USCIS shut down all over the country, and business slowed down to a near halt. We wrote about a lot of backlogs that happened in that time: there was the green card printing backlog, the biometric appointment delay backlog, and just a couple of months ago we wrote about another backlog of 120,000 family green card slots. All of these backlogs are the symptoms of an overwhelmed system that needs reform, and one of its results is a significant backlog in green cards.
Every year the U.S. allots 140,000 green cards for petitioners in employment-based categories. If by the end of the fiscal year not all of the family-based green cards are issued, the law requires that the extras are then added to the cap for the employment-based green cards in the following year. But if those additional employment-based green cards aren't issued by the end of the following fiscal year, that's it, they are gone.
Thankfully Congress and the Biden Administration has recognized the problem and is trying to solve it. On November 19 the House passed the Build Back Better Act, a massive bill which includes language to recapture the approximately 400,000 unused visa numbers for family- and employment-based green card applicants waiting in backlogs. The Act also includes language to maintain the eligibility of Diversity Visa lottery winners and recapture the Diversity Visas from the last four years that went unused because of travel bans or Covid-19 restrictions.
The Act won't raise the cap amount of any visas, but if it is passed by the Senate and signed by the President, it will ensure that the visa numbers that have been approved for use don't go to waste.
The good news about the Build Back Better Act is that it has already passed the House of Representatives. But it faces uncertainty in the Senate, where Democrats are not unified in their policy views and the Senate Parliamentarian can decide whether a position is appropriate to include in a bill or not. Seeing as how not everyone in Congress agrees with the work permit parole policy included in the Act, it faces an uphill battle to pass the Senate.
You can help.
You can reach out to our Virginia senators and remind them of the importance of the Build Back Better Act to fix the backlog of green cards. You can contact Virginia Senator Mark Warner here, and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine here.
And you can be assured that as soon as we have an update on the Act's passage we will let you know.
If you have questions about a pending USCIS petition or need help with a visa, please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.