Could recaptured green cards ease the immigration backlog?

On Behalf of | Nov 15, 2021 | Family Immigration

The tech industry is struggling to get enough foreign-born workers to fill its labor shortage, and backlogs and per-country caps on immigrants haven’t helped. However, there may be relief on the way

As the Build Back Better Act works its way through the U.S. House of Representatives, immigration proponents are hoping to include a provision that will recapture unused green cards from the last 40 years. Further, applicants who are willing to pay an extra fee will be exempted from both the annual and per-country caps that limit the number of green cards issued each year.

How do green cards go unused?

With so many people — roughly five million — waiting in line for their green cards, it seems incredible that any would end up unused. However, the complicated U.S. green card system ends up with gaps every year that leave hundreds or thousands of green cards unclaimed.

Partially that’s because of the way that green cards have to be allocated (140,000 are designated for employment-based applications, 226,000 for the family members of existing U.S. citizens, and 50,000 for diversity applications).

Another problem is the fact that only 7% of the green cards issued in a year can go to applicants of any given country. That is designed to promote fairness and diversity, but the reality is that it tends to disadvantage would-be immigrants from countries with a lot of applicants — like India, China and Mexico. Some of the green cards are just lost to administrative delays and other problems.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that the pro-immigrant clauses of the Build Back Better Act will survive. Government officials who take an anti-immigration stance say that allowing the recapture and exceptions would come at the expense of native-born workers. However, that may be harder to argue with the current labor shortages.

Because the immigration process in this country is so complicated and in so much flux, it’s only wise to have experienced legal guidance on your journey.