Want to know why the immigrant visa backlog is still a big issue in 2023? Then you won’t want to miss this blog post, where attorney Jacob Sapochnick tells you all you need to know about the visa backlogs.
So, you’ve filed your green card application and now your case is stuck in the backlogs. In this video we discuss what the green card backlog is and why it is still happening in 2023.
What is a green card backlog?
A green card backlog occurs when there have been significant delays in the processing and approval of applications for adjustment of status to permanent residency (also known as green card applications filed with USCIS) and/or immigrant visa applications awaiting interview scheduling at U.S. Consulates and Embassies abroad.
While the backlog has always existed to some extent, mandatory quarantines and social distancing protocols occurring during the Coronavirus pandemic worsened delays in green card processing. Additionally, the annual numerical limits for family-sponsored and employment-based preference categories limit the number of green cards that can be issued every year, therefore causing delays among millions of applicants who must wait for their “priority date” to become current on the Visa Bulletin, before becoming eligible to apply for their green card. For many of these categories, demand for visas far exceeds the number of available visas which causes a backlog of applicants waiting for their turn at the front of the line.
Furthermore, the Immigration and Nationality Act imposes a per-country limit on the number of green cards that can be issued by country of nationality. Therefore, applicants from countries that experience a high demand for visas such as India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines have much longer wait times when compared to other foreign nationals.
Administrative and bureaucratic delays also play a role in contributing to the green card backlogs because the green card process often involves more than one government agency including the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the National Visa Center (NVC), and the Department of State (DOS) for cases that will be processed at U.S. Consulates and Embassies abroad. The Department of Labor is also a familiar agency for employment-based preference categories that require the issuance of a permanent labor certification (PERM) from the DOL as part of the green card process. Unfortunately, each of these agencies has its own processing times and its own backlogs due to high demand and insufficient resources to manage the backlogs.
As an example, as we have discussed in previous videos, in the month of July the National Visa Center had a backlog of 351,821 immigrant visa applicants still waiting to be scheduled for an interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad. This backlog has been caused by the exceptionally high demand for visa interviews and the very low number of visa interview appointments made available by Consulates and Embassies abroad. Out of this enormous backlog, only 36,576 immigrant visa applicants received an interview appointment in July. This illustrates the severe backlogs at the National Visa Center, and inaction on the part of the Department of State to open additional appointments to reduce these backlogs.
The Annual Numerical Limits
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) only a limited number of Green Cards can be issued each fiscal year. The annual limit for employment-based green cards is 140,000, and 226,000 for family-sponsored green cards. Each year, the demand for visas in each category outweighs the number of visas that can be issued. This is the reason the green card backlog exists.
Per-country limits also limit the number of visas that can be issued to any single country. Under the law no country can receive more than 7% of the total available green cards in a particular category to ensure diversity among immigrants that are admitted to the United States.
The annual numerical limits for Family-Sponsored preference categories are as follows:
First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.
Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: 114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:
- (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents: 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;
- (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents: 23% of the overall second preference limitation.
Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.
Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens: 65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.
The annual numerical limits for Employment-based preference categories are as follows:
First: Priority Workers: 28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required for fourth and fifth preferences.
Second: Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability: 28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required by first preference.
Third: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers: 28.6% of the worldwide level, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences, not more than 10,000 of which to “*Other Workers”.
Fourth: Certain Special Immigrants: 7.1% of the worldwide level.
Fifth: Employment Creation: 7.1% of the worldwide level, of which 32% are reserved as follows: 20% reserved for qualified immigrants who invest in a rural area; 10% reserved for qualified immigrants who invest in a high unemployment area; and 2% reserved for qualified immigrants who invest in infrastructure projects. The remaining 68% are unreserved and are allotted for all other qualified immigrants.
The U.S. Congress has floated a few proposals to help combat the massive green card backlog. Among these proposals, they have considered increasing the annual numerical limits so that more applicants are eligible to proceed with the green card process.
Secondly, they have considered eliminating the per-country limits to allow for a more equal distribution of visas among the categories.
Finally, Congress has proposed recapturing unused visa numbers from previous years and rolling them over to the current fiscal year to make them available for those waiting in the green card backlogs. This is the most logical approach to combating the green card backlogs and it is something that we hope to see gain traction in the new fiscal year.
We hope that with this new information you will understand why the green card backlog exists and how the government can manage the backlog by introducing legislation that will increase the pool of applicants that can move forward with their green card applications. If you found this video helpful, we hope that you will share it with someone who will find it useful.
Contact us. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.
- September Visa Bulletin
- Adjustment of Status Filing Dates from Visa Bulletin
- National Visa Center (NVC) August 2023 Immigrant Visa Backlog Report
- NVC Public Inquiry Form
- NVC Contact Information
- U.S. Embassies and Consulates
- NVC Timeframes
- Visa Appointment Wait Times
- State Department Newsroom
- ImmigrationU Membership
- Success stories
- Youtube channel
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