A record surplus of employment-based green cards available this year is forcing pressure on U.S. Immigration agencies to issue all available visas before the fiscal year ends.
A little over 66,000 employment-based green cards went unused last year, despite nearly 1.4 million immigrants waiting for a green card, as USCIS officials worked through massive backlogs primarily influenced by the pandemic and an unprecedented number of work visa petitions.
The agency faces an even bigger number this year—280,000 green cards compared to 262,000 in 2021. With such a high number of work-based green cards available, the surplus proposes a faster resolution for thousands of Indian and Chinese immigrants stuck in years-long backlogs because of per-country visa caps. Unlike temporary work visas such as H-1Bs, these green cards would also allow many skilled workers to switch employers freely without losing their immigration status.
USCIS has already started to shift some staff and resources to process green cards. The agency also redistributed applications among field offices to spread workloads more evenly. As of mid-June of this year, however, USCIS had used significantly more visas than at the same point last year and was issuing twice as many on a weekly basis.
Additionally, the agency is using a “risk-based approach” to waive interview requirements and urging applicants to be prepared to submit medical forms as soon as their applications are reviewed. It’s also encouraged others to transfer their applications from other employment-based visa categories to those with lower demand where eligible, a process known as interfiling.
However, workers stuck in backlogs for years also may not necessarily have their applications moved faster because USCIS is prioritizing processing as many pending cases as possible without specific regard to filing date. Many of these applicants are specialized in the field they want to acquire a work visa in – making interfiling for these cases unfeasible and often undesirable.
Although USCIS isn’t facing the same initial barriers this year as in fiscal 2021, an influx of Afghans and Ukrainians seeking humanitarian relief and a staff vacancy rate of nearly 20% continue to present challenges. The agency is undertaking a mass hire with an aim to fill almost all positions by the end of the calendar year as part of efforts to address efficiency and reduce backlogs. But new staffers could spend weeks in training before they can begin processing applications.
The agency has said that it’s well-positioned to issue all of the available visas before the fiscal year ends on September 30, 2022.
Are you or a loved one affected by the ongoing waitlist for visa processing by USCIS? It is more important now than ever to have adequate representation for your case. Contact us today for a free consultation.