What is the Green Card Backlog?

Updated on April 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • The green card backlog is a situation where over 100,000 immigrants are waiting for their chance to obtain a green card due to limited availability.
  • The backlog is particularly significant for immigrants from China and India.
  • Former President Trump’s policies exacerbated the backlog by freezing green cards and work visas.
  • President Biden lifted the ban, but the backlog remains, with over 900,000 people waiting.

When you apply for a green card, you have to be extremely patient because it takes a while until your application is approved. The waiting time has increased even more as there is a green card backlog that keeps everything stuck for a while. So, what is this green card backlog and what are the causes? Read on to find out!

What Is the Green Card Backlog?

There are more than 100,000 immigrants who are looking to get a green card. They are chasing after the benefits that come with having U.S. residency, and they are doing their best to do everything right. Numerous immigrants come from China and India, leading to large queues.

These queues represent the main cause for the green card backlog. The green card backlog represents a situation where immigrants are waiting in the queue for their chance to obtain a green card. Most of the time, the problem arises because there aren’t enough green cards available when compared to the number of people who want to get one.

What’s more, the backlog has a negative effect not only on the actual immigrants but also on their children if they have any. Children have to apply for the green card again as well, which means they are stuck in the backlog as well.

Why Is There a Green Card Backlog?

There is a green card backlog because the number of green cards offered is not enough when you look at how many immigrants wish to obtain permanent residency. There are way too many immigrants, and not all of them have the chance to get a green card at that time, so they become stuck in the backlog.

That isn’t all, though. The Trump Administration also managed to make things worse. The former president Donald Trump was known to be against immigrants coming to the U.S. and getting jobs. He thought that this would prevent skilled American workers from getting the position instead.

In order to protect the American jobs while the pandemic was going on, he thought it would be a good idea to freeze green cards and temporary work visas for skilled foreign workers, nannies, and managers who were part of the J, H-2B, H-4, H-1B, and L-1 categories. The ban also made it impossible for foreign skilled workers to apply for an H-1B work visa. This was a big issue considering that lots of tech companies rely on this to bring highly skilled workers and improve the technology.

Therefore, President Biden had to take steps in addressing the green card backlog. As a result, he lifted the ban. This helped clear the backlog a little bit and give some people the green cards they wanted, but it did not eliminate the backlog.

How Big Is the Green Card Backlog?

Not addressing the green cards available can bring many issues when it comes to the immigration system. Backlogs are terrible for families who are waiting to see each other, but also for workers and employers. The green card backlog now has more than 900.000 people waiting for their chance to become permanent residents.

A lot of people with employment-based green cards are in the U.S. already, trying to adjust to another status, like an H-1B work visa. These people are waiting in the backlog as well, and while this is the case, they are unable to change their employer or job, and they are also not allowed to travel abroad.

Proposed Green Card Backlog Super Fee

A Reconciliation Bill was released by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. This bill will allow people to progress in the backlog line if they make sure to pay a supplemental fee. This will make it more likely for them to get the immigration documents they want. The fee is also called the super fee.

The fee is $5,000. Therefore, Indians who are stuck in the green card backlog will have the chance to get their visas if they pay this sum. This will also allow dreamers to get permanent residency.

But for the EB5 category, the fee is higher, costing as much as $50,000. The provisions will expire in 2031. Also, if a family-based immigrant who has a U.S. citizen sponsor has a priority date that is over 2 years, the fee would be $2,500 for them. But if their priority date is not within those 2 years but they have to be in the country, their extra fee will be $1,500.

However, this Bill cannot help increase the annual H1B visas quota or get rid of country caps for green cards. New York immigration law firm founder Cyrus D Mehta spoke about the Bill to TOI.

“This is a terrific bill,” he said. “While it does not have everything, it would allow Indians in the employment green card backlogs to seek a waiver of the numerical limitations by paying a super fee of $5,000 at the time of filing their final adjustment of status applications and getting green cards.”

The Bill has to become law first, and before that, the provisions would also have to pass the Judiciary Committee, as well as the Senate and House of Representatives, and then get a signature from the president.

Cato Institute immigration policy analyst David J Bier also reacted to the new Bill. “Employment-based applicants can adjust if they have waited 2 years from their priority date… this is almost like abolishing the EB caps for adjustment applicants who can pay $5K. Awesome!” he said. “For EB5, it’s a $50K fee. Even those who can’t afford the fees or who are abroad would benefit from freeing up this cap space for others. It’s unfair that the bill maintains the country caps as is, so Indians and Chinese will be the only EB applicants required to pay the $5K/50K.”

Can a Person Be Deported While Waiting for a Green Card?

Whether you get deported or not under these circumstances will depend on the way you got into the country, to begin with. Apart from that, what also matters is the type of status your visa has, as well as what type of visa you have right now and whether you’ve overstayed it. So, in some cases, you may indeed be deported if the authorities find something wrong. In order to know for sure when deportation could happen, you should check out the U.S. Department of State website and read the outlined rules.

The Bottom Line

The green card backlog is very long and it is the direct result of the number of immigrants looking to get a green card versus the number of green cards available every year. However, it is also the direct result of the policies imposed by the Trump administration who wanted immigrants to be unable to get jobs in America during the pandemic.

Now, people may be able to skip the backlog if they pay a super fee, which is $5.000 or even higher depending on each category. It all depends on whether the bill will actually become law or not.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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