New Delhi: Indians applying for a green card to live and work in the US may have to wait for 50 years to get residency. The backlog of applications filed for US green card has reached the mark of 800,000. Of these, around 500,000 are Indians who are mainly seeking employment-based green card.
According to a report in The Washington Post, the wait is majorly due to an annual quota, which has been unchanged since 1990. It says pre-imposed per-country limits were enacted much before Indians became the largest group of green card seekers due to an IT boom.
With a green card, any resident is eligible to live and work in the U.S. permanently. Most of the Indians come to the US on H-B1 work visa. While there are a number of categories to apply for the green card, Indians apply in employment based and family-based category. According to data by the Department of Homeland Security, over 181,000 Indians are waiting for family-based green card.
The backlog has fuelled a debate centered around immigrants pitted against each other amid accusations of racism. There is a larger debate about whether to fix the wait time for those already in the backlog or allow border immigration so that more workers are able to get permanent residency. Suggestions such as addressing the county quotas and expanding the number of green cards are also under way.
Many US business leaders believe the backlog could push skilled Indian workers out of the country and seek citizenship of other nations.
“What does that ultimately mean? Valuable, skilled people decide they should leave because they’re never going to get what they had hoped for,” Bruce Morrison, a lobbyist and immigration attorney who wrote the last bill that increased the number of employment green cards in 1990, told The Washington Post.
“And valuable people don’t come because they figure our system is so broken they can’t see their way through it. Therefore, other countries bidding for these skilled workers get those workers. Companies in America move jobs abroad to employ those skills elsewhere. And American prosperity suffers.”
No country can take more than 7% of certain types of green cards
A narrow bill was blocked by US Senator Ricjard Durbin in October, which aimed to address the issues of backlog for employment-based residency. The bill, which had a resolution on eliminating the country quotas, was termed as unfair to non-Indian migrants by the opponents. Senator Durbin introduced the Relief Act which, along with eliminating country quotas, also proposes an increase in the number of employment and family-based green cards.
As per existing laws, no country can take more than 7 per cent of certain types of green cards. In employment category, 75 per cent of the backlog is for Indian immigrants and the rest are Chinese. The demand for family-based green cards mostly comes from Mexico and Filipino. Despite the backlog, around 20 per cent of Indians collected their green card in the last one decade, a figure well above the quota limit.
Ira J. Kurzban, a prominent immigration law scholar, wrote that in one of the employment-based categories — EB-2 — there are 40,040 green cards allocated a year, and “there are 550,000 nationals waiting for residency, of which 512,000 are Indian.”
The backlog would grow from more than 800,000 people today to 1.1 million in 2029, Kurzban calculated.