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Record pace for green cards won't last without congressional action

Suzanne Monyak, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

In years past, USCIS failed to rise to the occasion when there were extra employment-based green card slots.

Last fiscal year, the immigration agency let tens of thousands of extra slots go to waste because of agency processing delays, which angered immigrants who had spent years in a backlog waiting for a green card to become available.

A USCIS spokesperson credited the “tremendous effort of the USCIS workforce and our partners at the Department of State” for the agency’s ability to process all available employment-based green cards this fiscal year.

“Efforts to eliminate intake delays and reduce biometric backlogs in FY21 allowed USCIS to find unique solutions in order to capture all available visas in FY22, while still balancing other priorities, including naturalization, work authorization applications, emerging humanitarian initiatives, and ongoing staffing challenges,” the spokesperson said.

The agency estimated that 95,000 Indian citizens received an employment-based green card this year, which is more than four times the typical number before the pandemic.

Chandra Kothareddy, an Indian database administrator at a bone marrow donation nonprofit in Minnesota, said his wife cried with joy when the two got their green cards earlier this month, after nearly two decades on temporary visas.

 

He recounted years of worry about work permit delays and traveling internationally and said that now, with his green card, he finally feels “comfortable.”

But the effect on the larger backlog as a whole — estimated to include more than 1 million immigrants — remains to be seen, analysts said.

According to Bier, whose organization analyzes green card data, the employment-based green card backlog stood at roughly 1.4 million at the start of this fiscal year, in October 2021, and is now probably several hundred thousand cases lower.

Michael Turansick, supervisory policy and practice counsel at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the effect of the additional processing on the backlog is “probably yet to be fully determined.”

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