50,000 Indians Would Die Waiting for Employment-Based Green Card

There has been a great deal of attention given to the problems in our immigration system. Much of that attention has been focused on the portion of the system that deals with undocumented persons, the detention system, and the effect it has on people’s lives. However, there is another portion of the immigration system which leaves its members in limbo for decades up to and including their deaths.

Currently, the employment-based immigration system is dealing with a backlog for some countries which send large numbers of skilled workers to the United States. In the cases of India and China, this backlog requires a wait of years, decades, and maybe the never. Our outdated employment-immigration system operates under a per-country cap, which limits the number of green cards any one nation can receive to no more than 7 percent of all green cards issued in a year. For instance, the Republic of Malta and India both can receive no more than 7% of the green cards, even though Malta’s population is less than 500,000, and India’s population is more than 1.2 billion. Not only does this system punish nations with larger people such as India and China, it further hamstrings any country which sends large numbers of highly skilled workers to the United States.

This dysfunctional system leaves many applicants in the dark, obstructing their ability to plan an active, long-term immigration strategy while having to jump through hoops and spend thousands of dollars on maintaining their current legal status, waiting for a green card that may never become available to them. According to Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, projected wait time for new Indian applicants in the EB-2/EB-3 category is 49 years, and “nearly 50,000 Indians would die before then.”[1]

Applicants left stuck in this never-ending line can face several different hardships, not only for them but also for their dependents. They may not be able to travel to their home country, even in emergencies such as family death, may not be able to renew their drivers’ licenses, and their children may age out during the process and no longer be able to receive the benefit, to name a few examples. For some, it may even be impossible to extend their current status under the Trump administration’s hostile immigration agenda, meaning that they would have to go back to their home country. The recent increase in H-1B denial rates, “rising from 6% in 2015 to 32% in the first quarter of FY 2019”[2], is just one example.

The backlog also impedes the purposes of the employment sponsored green cards, to bring over foreign talents with extraordinary skills or to fill a position where there is no U.S. worker available. Applicants in immigration limbo are also unlikely to be able to carry out their peak performance, having to divert their time and resources to comply with ever-changing American immigration law.

By: Rahul V. Reddy

Rahul is the founding partner of Reddy & Neumann P.C. His practice covers employment-based immigration, in which he represents corporate clients in far-ranging industries.