Everything you need to know about unused Green Cards

Thousands of Indians stuck in green card lines lament wastage of a million residency permits

In the past few months, there has been a big discussion among immigration experts and thousands of Indians stuck in unending green card lines about the possible wastage of about a million permanent residency permits.

As the pending green cards expired on Sept. 30 as per the calendar USCIS operates on, a huge wave of disappointment was seen in immigration circles.

Was it justified that due to Covid delays, USCIS could not use up all the extra visas which emerged at the beginning of this year?

Read: Apple’s Tim Cook flags concern about green cards going waste (September 28, 2021)

These have been hot button discussions at many immigration forums. But what really are these unused visas and who do they rightfully belong to? Here’s everything you may need to know about green card wastage.

It must be understood that green card wastage is not a new issue or something that came about this year. For decades thousands and thousands of green cards are left unissued every year due to various administrative reasons.

So, why all this noise, this year, you may ask? Well, this year, the Covid pandemic resulted in complete slowdown of services hence the number of green cards processed were lower than the numbers available.

Unused Green Cards
Now, to understand how the unused green cards get accumulated each year, first it is important to understand how green cards can be obtained.

In the United States, there are two primary ways you can petition to get a green card issued — family based green card and an employment based green card.

Now to put a limit on family based as well as work based immigration, the Congress has put a limit on the number of green cards issued every year. Needless to add that there is an overwhelming demand for green cards from certain countries including India and China.

So, the annual cap for family based immigration has been put at 2,26,000 green cards per year and employment based immigration cap has been put at 1,40,000 every year.

The reason there emerge left-over green cards every year is because Congress put a directive saying that if fewer than 226,000 family based green cards are issued in a fiscal year, the left-over number is added to the employment based green cards in the next fiscal year.

The same principle applies in the case of employment based green cards too. If fewer than 140,000 green cards are utilized then the remaining number is added to the family based green card for the next fiscal year.

Now with Covid consuming all aspects of lives globally, international travel took a major hit. Also with office closures, the number of family based green cards issued in the year 2020 stood at 106,000 according to data available.

Read: Up to 80,000 unused Green Cards for workers set to expire Friday (October 1, 2021)

This meant that an additional 120,000 green cards were added to the employment based quota this year. The USCIS was able to approve only 180,000 employment based visas by the time fiscal year 2021 ended on Sept. 30 as per the agency calendar.

So, while 40,000 extra visas could be issued it was the wastage of 80,000 visas that immigration experts and backlogged individuals lamented upon.

While there are some talks in some immigration circles on the possibility of using up those visas, for now it seems like a far-fetched dream.

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