Time is Ticking: Risk of Green Cards Going to Waste

Time is Ticking: Risk of Green Cards Going to Waste

Posted by: Park Evaluations

By: Hannah Rae Welbourn

Around 100,000 green cards, or Permanent Resident Cards, are at risk of going to waste as a result of slower, pandemic-related processing times. This is on top of a preexisting backlog.

A closer look at the numbers reveals that roughly 90% of those eligible for these at-risk green cards are currently on employment-based temporary visas, and although they are already living and working in the United States, they continue to face wait times that can last up to decades—a result of the high demand for visas for technology workers from India, combined with the cap placed on the country.

But why are there so many visas available right now anyway? The answer is that any unused family-based green cards from the previous year carry over to the cap on employment-based green cards the following year. Due to the initial Covid-19 outbreak last year, which led to further immigration restrictions implemented by the Trump administration, very few family-based green cards were able to be used.

They can only carry over once, though. If they aren’t used as employment-based cards, they are gone forever—and time is running out.

The Biden administration has until the end of the month to issue these 100,000 green cards, a feat that may be too challenging for USCIS. The agency faced a drop in funding last year (as it is a fee-funded agency, and far fewer people were able to apply due to the pandemic) and are still recovering from it, contributing to these slower processing times. Additionally, a new director of USCIS was just appointed last month.

One potential solution proposed by democrats in Congress is to allow the green cards to be carried back over, reverting them to those eligible under family-based immigration. However, prospective applicants already here on temporary work visas would not be able to benefit from that, leading to potential decade-long setbacks for many workers.

With the current obstacles in place—including sluggish processing, country-based quotas, and what many immigration advocates are calling a lack of urgency from the Biden Administration—and no apparent talks of any forthcoming changes that might fast-track the process, the likelihood of salvaging the evaporating green card opportunities grows smaller by the day.

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