Over a million high-skilled Indians are waiting endlessly for employment-based green card

Over a million high-skilled Indians are waiting endlessly for employment-based green card

MUMBAI: The statistics are no longer a surprise, the trend continues – more than one million Indians continue to wait in employment-based green card backlogs.
Over 1.2 million (12.6 lakh) Indians, including their dependents, are waiting in the first, second and third employment-based green card categories, according to a National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis of data released by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).The data reflect approved I-140 immigrant petitions (which is the first step in the entire green card process) as of November 2, 2023. The think tank then calculated the dependents to arrive at an estimated backlog in the top three employment-based immigration categories.
The hashtag #greencardbacklog is a perennial feature on X (Formerly Twitter). Posts reflect harsh reality. As Dr Raj Karnatak posts: “As a high-skilled immigrant in the US, I am ashamed how high-skilled immigrants are being tortured with decades of inhumane green card backlog, with no desire to fix this issue. Even frontline workers, those who risked their own lives during the pandemic are being rewarded with a visa nightmare.”
An annual limit for employment-based green cards pegged at 1.40 lakh plus any unused family-sponsored green cards that are passed on to this category, with a per-country limit of 7% has led to this backlog. The Indian diaspora is bearing the brunt.
NFAP in its analysis shows:

First preference:

According to USCIS, 51,249 principal applicants are in the employment-based first preference, also known as EB-1. NFAP estimates an additional 92,248 dependents for a total of 1,43,497 Indians in the first preference backlog. EB-1 includes workers with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers and multinational executives or managers.

Second preference:

According to USCIS, as of November 2, 2023, there were 4,19,392 principal applicants in the employment-based second preference, also known as EB-2. NFAP estimates an additional 4,19,392 dependents for a total of 8,38,784 Indians in the second preference backlog. EB-2 includes professionals holding an advanced degree and persons with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business.
USCIS data from 2020 suggest that the Indian backlog in the EB-2 category rose by more than 2,40,000 or 40% in approximately three years.

Third preference:

According to USCIS, 138,581 principals are in the employment-based third preference, also known as EB-3. NFAP estimates an additional 1,38,581 dependents for a total of 2,77,162 Indians in the third preference backlog. EB-3 includes skilled workers and “members of the professions whose jobs require at least a baccalaureate degree.” (Unskilled or ‘Other Workers’ in the third preference are not included in the NFAP analysis).

Source: NFAP’s analysis of USCIS data
Without Congressional action, the backlog will continue to increase. In 2020, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimated the backlog for Indians in the top three employment-based green card categories would reach 21,95,795 individuals by fiscal year 2030 and take 195 years to eliminate the backlog.
Stuart Andersen, Executive Director at NFAP told TOI, “The lengthy green card wait times exact a great personal toll on Indian-born individuals and families and make the United States less competitive in attracting and retaining talent. Congress set the annual limit on employment-based immigrant visas and the per-country limit before the World Wide Web, smartphones and other innovations vastly increased the demand for scientists and engineers. Changes to the US immigration system would benefit many lives and help America economically.”
In 2021, when the USCIS had invited public comments on improving the legal immigration system, New-York based immigration attorney, Cyrus D. Mehta had suggested that the administration stop counting family members. “There is a legal basis to do so because of the ambiguity in an Immigration and Nationality Act provision, viz: section 203(d). This will go a long way in reducing the decade long backlogs in the family and employment-based categories,” he had said.
Unfortunately, till date various bills that sought to ease the backlog, remove the country cap or increase the annual quota have not seen the light of the day.

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