In this post we explain different aspects of the employment-based green card backlog:
– How the employment-based backlog created?
– Why the employment-based backlog created?
– Who created the backlog?
– Why we oppose the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 (S386) in its current form.
– How does the RELIEF Act (S2603) introduced by Senator Durbin solve the backlog problem?
What is The Employment-based immigration?
Employment-based or EB immigration is a program which allows high-skilled workers from around the world to immigrate to the United States to serve the unfilled needs of the US economy. Typically, employers first hire foreign workers on a temporary H-1B visa and may later sponsor a green card for them. Certain individuals with exceptional ability and skills can apply for the green card themselves. For some countries such as France, Germany, Iran, and Japan, over 50% of the applicants fall into these categories. Only 140,000 Employment-based Green Cards are available each year, so if the approved petitions are more than the available green cards in that year, the applicant has to wait until new green cards become available in the subsequent years. To maintain the diversity and prevent monopolization of immigrant visas by one country, a “Per-Country Cap” was proposed by The Immigration and Nationality Act. In this system, first, up to 7% of the total Green Cards are available for each county. Then, the unused green cards are redistributed to high demand countries. This process protects small countries while still allowing large countries a major share of Green Cards.
What is the backlog in Employment-based green cards?
What is backlog in Employment-based green cards? India and China approximately receive 20% and 15% of the total Green Cards each fiscal year. Still, there are a lot more applicants from these countries who are added to the backlog each year.
Why was the backlog created?
The cause of the green card backlog is simply a mismatch between supply and demand. The number of applicants is way more than the available green cards. Basic math! Every year about 85000 new workers are added to the H-1B pool. These workers then seek permanent residence through EB Green Card program. Each H-1B worker has 1.1 dependents on average. That is 178,500 new green card applicants entered the pool every year while there are only 140,000 green cards available. The backlog never clears and gets worse every year.
Why is S.386 not a solution?
The per-country cap does not allow applicants from one country to monopolize GCs. Therefore, if applicants from one country are disproportionately more than other countries, they will experience a larger backlog. India currently has the largest backlog. Indian applicants dominate the H-1B program and receive 64% of those visas on average. Without a per-country cap similar domination would occur in the green card program and severely skew the system against applicants from other countries. With the current cap Indian applicants still receive about 20% of the green cards. Unlike what the proponents of S.386 say, the system is not biased against Indian applicants. Removal of the cap will not reduce the backlog; it will only shift it to other countries. Particularly exacerbating the GC backlog is the hiring practices of the IT industry. Their business model is based on hiring vast numbers of foreign workers through IT outsourcing companies, most of which are based in India. These companies take a cut from the wage paid by the American employer in exchange for finding immigrant IT workers. These workers are hired with the promise of GCs that never existed. So they get stuck in the backlog and have to work as indentured servants for many years. For example, in 2017 only seven IT outsourcing companies, accounted for 77000 H-1B applications or 20% of all visas. That is 161700 people including their spouses and children who are typically added to the EB2 and EB3 subcategories with a capacity of only about 80,000 green cards per year. So these seven companies alone inject twice as many people as the total capacity of these two categories. The IT industry is fiercely lobbying against adding more green cards to clear the backlog and at the same time injects thousands of people to the green card backlog. Why? Because workers in the backlog are technically on a temporary status and do not have the same rights as citizens. Their legal status is dependent upon their employer and its willingness to renew the visa. This situation effectively make the immigrant worker an indentured servant until they receive a green card. The IT industry makes money by abusing the immigration system to create and sustain this indentured servitude model. In their latest effort, they are heavily lobbying for the bill S.386 to remove the per-country caps without adding a single green card. This move is marketed as an effort to make the system fair. The result would be that applicants from all countries will get stuck in the backlog which is estimated to be 17 years long. That is 17 years of indentured servitude for EVERYONE. The brightest and most talented of these immigrants will move to other countries. Their institutions will be crippled and the US will lose its competitiveness in major technologies. Meanwhile, the IT industry reaps all the benefits all under the pretense of defending fairness.