USCIS Update: New Report Green Card Numbers Rebound to Pre-COVID Levels

Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides new insight into the status of green card processing within the United States (adjustment of status) by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A new article published by the Pew Research Center takes note of positive changes that are developing, as the number of new green cards issued by USCIS bounces back to pre-pandemic levels.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


A new research study conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals that the issuance of new green cards for those adjusting their status to permanent residence within the United States (using Form I-485) has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, signaling a return to normalcy at least at the USCIS level.

This signals improvement in the social climate, as well as productivity among USCIS to push cases through the pipeline.

What is this new study about?

The Pew Research Center’s report makes comparisons between green card issuance prior, during, and after the pandemic, with results that are extremely positive.

The Center highlights that during the period of July to September 2021, USCIS issued approximately 282,000 new green cards to those seeking adjustment of status within the United States. This figure has been the highest recorded, since the pre-pandemic period of April through June of 2017, and was slightly higher than the quarterly average dating back to October 2015 through March 2020.

In comparison, at the height of the pandemic in mid-2020, only 79,000 new green cards were issued, with the lowest recorded from April to June 2020 at 19,000 new green cards.

As you can see from the graph below, the issuance of green cards was at an all-time low during 2020, and gradually made a rebound each quarter eventually matching average figures at pre-pandemic levels.

This shift is extremely impressive considering that USCIS faced severe backlogs when its offices closed during the pandemic and interviews were not able to be conducted. Over the last year, however, USCIS has tackled the backlog by hiring additional personnel, distributing workloads, and leaning on discretionary policies such as waivers of in-person interviews to better manage caseloads.

In sharp contrast, the Department of State has taken minimal action to resolve the substantial backlogs of immigrant visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas. Sadly, the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates, have been unable to accommodate the growing number of applicants seeking immigrant visa interviews, leaving applicants in a state of uncertainty.

In fact, the Pew Center reports that only 19,000 new green cards were issued to foreign nationals arriving to the United States via immigrant visas. When comparing that figure to the quarterly average of 134,000 green cards issued since 2015, it is clear that immigrant visa processing is nowhere near pre-pandemic levels.  The report also reveals that in the final quarter of 2021, between June and September, approximately 105,000 new green cards were issued to overseas applicants, making up 78% of the pre-pandemic quarterly average.

By contrast, for green card applicants already in the United States on temporary visas, approximately 60,000 new green cards were issued, compared to the quarterly average of 141,000 green cards issued since 2016 (pre-pandemic levels). In the last quarter of 2021, this number shot up to 177,000, the highest number of new green cards issued since 2016.


In summary, these figures clearly demonstrate that obtaining a green card from within the United States (through adjustment of status) is a much faster process, than applying at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy overseas. This is because USCIS has been better able to manage caseloads, while the Department of State has largely struggled to implement any uniform policy for U.S. Embassies and Consulates to follow. Unfortunately, adjustment of status is not always an option for applicants, therefore it is important for individuals to consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can evaluate their possible options and discuss their individual situation in more detail.

Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.

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