US Green Card backlog: 10.7 lakh Indians await processing with 134-year wait time


The employment-based Green Card backlog in the U.S., particularly for Indians, has reached alarming proportions, reveals a recent study by David J. Bier, associate director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute, as reported by Economic Times. Currently, 10.7 lakh Indians are caught up in the backlog, awaiting processing in the EB-2 and EB-3 categories, with an estimated waiting time of a staggering 134 years.

This year, the employment-based Green Card backlog has hit a record high of 1.8 million cases, affecting the futures of 1.34 lakh Indian children who may age out before obtaining a Green Card. For new Indian applicants in the EB-2 and EB-3 categories, this backlog is essentially a life sentence, with the report indicating that approximately 424,000 applicants may pass away while waiting.

Bier cited, “The 1.1 million cases from Indians in the backlog bear most of the burden of the broken system. New applicants from India will face a lifetime wait, and more than 400,000 will die before they receive a green card.”

Over half of the backlog is in the EB‑2 category for employees of U.S. businesses with advanced degrees. Another 19 percent are in the EB‑3 category for employees with at least bachelor’s degrees, the report also cited

When dependent children on H-4 visas reach the age of 21, they lose eligibility for their visa status, often referred to as “documented dreamers.” To address this, some pursue F-1 student visas, but encounter obstacles like limited work opportunities and higher fees. As a last resort, some may face the difficult decision of self-deporting to their home country, despite having grown up in the United States and lacking strong connections there.

The heart of the issue is the U.S. immigration policy, granting only 140,000 Green Cards annually for employment-based applicants with a 7% per-country cap. This disproportionately affects Indian nationals, particularly those on H-1B visas, a significant skilled immigrant group.

In the report, Bier highlighted that, “The fact that Chinese and Indians dominate the backlog is the result of the country caps where Green Cards are not issued proportionally to the number of pending applicants in each country but rather limited arbitrarily at 7% per nation of birth.”


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