For those who got caught in green card backlog, the current debate is not just academic

Photo credit: Natasha Israni

Tens of thousands of highly qualified professionals are victims of the backlog.

In the last few weeks, after years of campaigning by Indian H-1B workers, the issue of green card backlog has been placed on the front burner on Capitol Hill.

With the US House of Representatives passing the H.R. 1044 and now with the introduction of two rival bills in the Senate — S. 386 and S. 2091 — both of which call for green card reforms, there has been a discussion on whether a per-country cap should be eliminated.

At the moment, people from any one nation will not get more than 7 percent of green cards in any category.

While some argue that everyone eligible for a green card, regardless of the country they were born in, should get it, others contest that the process of removing country caps may kill the diversity, especially in employment-based green card category.

However, one group of people, this debate is not just academic: tens of thousands of highly qualified and tax-paying professionals for whom green card backlog has seriously hampered their professional growth and cast uncertainty over their personal lives.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about H.R. 1044, the bill aimed at reducing green card backlog (July 19, 2019)

Those belonging to this group — majority of whom are Indian and Chinese nationals —  who are seeking employment based green cards, have already proved their eligibility by working, studying, securing jobs, or starting businesses in America.

Netra Chavan. who supports immigration reform and runs a popular Facebook group on visa issues, says, “Securing work visa is a prime necessity for many immigrants today who have been stuck in green card backlog for decades now. As per Forbes, nearly half of Fortune 500 companies were founded by first or second-generation immigrants and no doubt, many were former H1-B visa holders. With approved I-140 for decades now, the hopeful green card backlog community, especially India and China born are stuck in unlimited H1B extension cycle.”

The House passed H.R. 1044, the “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019” on July 10, 2019. A companion bill S. 386 was introduced in the Senate by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) back in February. That bill, which also has bi-partisan support, was referred to committee on July 9, 2019.

However, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who is opposed to the ‘Fairness’ Act, introduced a rival bill, the BELIEVE Act, or Backlog Elimination, Legal Immigration and Employment Visa Enhancement Act, (S. 2091) on July 11, 2019.

RELATED: Petition launched on the White House website in support of Senate bill S. 386 (July 16, 2019)

Chavan added, “My concern is if S. 2091 can be introduced in the Senate in two days after objection, then why wait till the House bill H.R. 1044 is passed. Sen. Rand Paul is well aware of challenges H-1B visa holders and their kids — “legal dreamers” — are facing. We highly request him to please remove the hold on the bill S. 386 and if any amendments are needed, a new version of House and Senate bills can be introduced once this S. 386 is passed.”

For many the endless wait is causing familial problems. Take the case of New Jersy-based Anand, who wants to be identified only by his last name.

He has been living and working in the United States for years and holds a senior position in a big company. For his peer back in India, he lives the ideal American life. However, Anand is still awaiting his green card and, with the recent spike in the H-1B denials, he does not want to risk a denial as his kids and wife are well-settled in this country. As a result, he has not been visiting India for years now. He fears that if his H-1B stamping on passport gets denied, his years of hard work and patient wait would come to a naught. While many of his friends tell him that his fear may be baseless, he wouldn’t take the risk, having seen many eligible cases getting RFEs (Request for Evidence) from the USCIS and denials.

RELATED: New bill introduced by Sen. Rand Paul includes benefits for H4 EAD (July 15, 2019)

Another fear that stalks many families is that of not getting visa interview dates in case of any family emergency if they visit their country. Many say that nowadays they are facing delayed visa interview appointments dates, which has impact on either loss of pay and/or separation from family and/or loss of job itself. No one wants an employee who is on unlimited break irrespective of the immigration reason.

For the Agarwal family in California, it is the fear of losing H4 EAD that looms large. Both the husband and wife were employed with US technology firms until the husband’s visa got denied and he returned to India. The wife, who is now doing exceptionally well in her career, chose to call her husband on a H4 EAD.

Today the husband is working, but at a position lower than his qualification. The couple owns a house and has two college going kids, owe mortgage and college fees. They are fearful about their status as the green card wait continues to look longer for them.

“Emigrating to Canada is the dinner table talk, almost every other weekend in our household. But the kids are so well assimilated that it seems unfair uprooting them,” they say.

Many immigration lawyers have also voiced that a loss of H4 EAD as many families await green card will impact families financially and will indirectly lead to unseen stress in the families.


The newly passed H.R.1044 raises caps for family-based green cards (July 11, 2019)

Waiting for the Wait to End: The human face of Indian immigrants caught in the Green Card backlog (December 4, 2018)

Will Trump’s proposed immigration reform benefit Indians? What will be its impact on Green Card backlog? (May 20, 2019)

RHC’s H-1B rally demands elimination of Green Card backlog, protection for ‘DALCA’ children (February 10, 2019)

Trump talks about changes in H-1B Visa, including a possible citizenship (January 11, 2019)

Trump’s tweet on H-1B and path to citizenship evokes lukewarm response (January 12, 2019)

Waiting for the Wait to End: The human face of Indian immigrants caught in the Green Card backlog (December 4, 2018)

H-4 and H-1: Time for Indian immigrants to speak up on immigration policy, says author Amy Bhatt (January 5, 2019)

The unstable life of Indians on H-1B visa in the US due to visa renewal policy (October 28, 2016)

High-skilled Indian workers, DALCA kids, rally on Capitol Hill to clear green card backlog (June 15, 2018)

Reverse brain drain – the experience of three couples who moved back to India from the US (January 20, 2014)



  1. There is a different approach for those who are seeking only temporary relief for a work visa (like H1B denied)

  2. Americans are without jobs and Indians want green cards so that they can replace more Americans. How is this fair ? HR#1044 will replace more Americans. House has passed the bill as they did not have much knowledge on the harm this bill can do.

  3. What about Americans who were let go after training their replacements. There are genuine cases but queue has lot of fraud and that needs to be stopped.

  4. I am a diplomat from Ethiopia. Now there is ethnic conflict across the country. Many people killed and thousands displaced this year. I am fear to go back? What if I apply for asylum?

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