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The U.S. Allotment of Employment-Based Green Cards is Not Being Used Accurately

Posted by Hugo R. Valverde, Managing Attorney, and Anna D. Colby, Attorney Social Media Marketing Manager | Jan 28, 2024 | 0 Comments

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

At this point you may be tired of us using the word backlog yet again, but here we are. 

Although the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency has been taking steps to lessen its backlog of visa processing, the per-country and per-type allotments of visas themselves have created their own kind of backlog. 

We've talked a lot about the consular interview backlog, the backlog affecting family reunification cases, the new service center USCIS opened in 2023 for backlogged cases, and the backlog reduction that USCIS reported last year, but it seems that as USCIS and the State Department work on reducing one area of backlogs, another [understandably] takes center stage. 

Today we want to talk about the way that the employment based green card allotment is affecting the backlog of applicants, and how different its processing is from what Congress likely intended.

A new study from the Cato Institute states a pretty shocking statistic - only 45% of  employment based green cards in 2022 went to employees.

How is that possible? How could a federal agency so closely watched by the federal government be processing cases so differently from what immigration law sets forth?

Immigration law provides that 140,000 green cards be issued every year for employment-based petitioners. But what the law fails to do is separate the dependents of employment-based petitions from the actual employee, meaning that if an employee with a spouse and five kids is granted permanent residency, seven employment-based green cards will be used out of the annual allotment. Statistically that translates to 45% of employment-based green cards going to workers, and 55% of the employment-based allotment going to their family members. 

Advocates for employment-based immigration reform suggest that having a separate green card category for the spouses and children of workers would enable all allotted 140,000 employment-based green cards to go to skilled workers, rather than split between some workers and their family members. As the law stands right now, there are almost 900,000 skilled workers (not including their family members) waiting for employment-based green card availability. 

What do you think? Should dependent family members be counted in the allotment for employment-based visas, or should they have their own green card category? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

If you have questions about an employment-based visa or applying for another immigration petition 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.

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