Research Shows Scope of Green Card Backlog

Ann All

As concerns grow over H-1B visas, which companies use to employ skilled foreign workers, some experts -- including H-1B opponent Ron Hira -- have suggested that a revamp of the country's process for awarding green cards may be the answer.


As Hira told us earlier this year in an IT Business Edge interview Hira: Visa Programs 'Need to Be Fixed':

You've got people who are very smart and they want to stay here, but there are interminable waits of six, eight, 10 years. That's unacceptable. I am actually in favor of increasing the green card quotas and having a more rational program.

Proposed revisions to the green card system -- albeit ones largely disliked by business owners -- were included in the broad immigration reform bill that died in the Senate earlier this summer.


And U.S. immigration authorities found themselves facing the prospect of a class-action lawsuit when they considered halting acceptance of green card applications for this year in July, rather than in August as originally planned.


So, it's safe to say that not many folks are happy with the status quo.


A study from researchers at Duke, New York and Harvard universities indicates that the scope of the problem may be larger than realized -- though it's hard to tell because, as with the H-1Bs, the government doesn't appear to have many hard numbers on how many people are currently waiting for the coveted documents.


The researchers estimate that some 500,000 foreign workers and their families -- a total of a million or so people -- are currently waiting for green cards. The U.S. grants about 120,000 green cards a year.


In addition, because the U.S. wants no single country to account for more than 7 percent of the employment-based visas it grants annually, applicants from such locales as India and China may end up waiting as long as 10 years.


The researchers say their study is designed to help make people aware that debate over immigration reform needs to encompass the issue of highly skilled foreign workers seeking employment in the U.S., as well as illegal immigrants seeking legal status.


Some of the same researchers produced a report earlier this year that indicated that 25 percent of the country's technology and engineering start-ups had been founded by immigrants.


Some experts have warned that the difficulty in obtaining green cards may lead more talented university graduates to consider establishing businesses in countries other than the U.S.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 23, 2007 5:54 AM Goodbye US Goodbye US  says:
I moved out of US as the green card wait was too long. My employer desperately wanted to keep me - but there was no way to expedite the green card process.I thank US for the work experience it has given me. But I am using this experience in UK (I decided to move to UK as it has a more liberal migrant programme). I wish I could have stayed in US and contributed to the country - as it was 'home' for 6 years! Reply
Aug 23, 2007 6:46 AM stillwaiting stillwaiting  says:
I have been in this country more than 6 years. Done my Masters here and working since then. Still waiting for GC. Reply
Aug 23, 2007 9:09 AM Barb Barb  says:
The people who are impatiently waiting for green cards mostly came here on H-1Bs. Studies show that the vast majority of H-1Bs are requested by companies seeking entry or near entry level employees. This has been going on for the last 7 years and it is these people who are now demanding green cards. They displaced American workers and it is good for America and the countries that they came from that they go home. In the future, the H-1B needs to be restricted to only the most rare, esoteric skill sets. Not doing so has turned the H-1B into the "great American worker displacement visa" and that was never supposed to happen. These bright legal folks in many cases displaced bright legal American workers. We have a debt to pay to the workers who made us great in the first place. Those who used the non-immigrant H-1B visa as if it were an immigration visa took a chance and bear partial responsibility for their predicament. Reply
Aug 24, 2007 1:26 AM Legal Immi Legal Immi  says:
According to some people everyone is those million people is here to steal the American job and they did committed fraud because they applied for green card according to the rules that are on the books. Losers will always complain about how they are entitled for certain things and how they are not getting and blame someone else for their problem. If H1B were a non immigrant VISA why USCIS allows them to apply for green cards in first place?Not all H1Bs are programmers or for entry level positions. H1bs are used for employing doctors, dentists, pharmacists and even cooks. There is a real shortage of doctors, pharmacists in this country. It takes something to be doctor or a pharmacist, dont blame legal immigrants for taking up a job that was offered to them. Dont blame every legal immigrant for culture where every kids role model is Britney Spears rather than a doctor or engineer. Legal Immigrants are no way responsible for sky high college tuition fees in this country. Dont blame people for taking an opportunity presented to them in a legal way for making their lives better. All the H1B people pay for all entitlement programs even though they are not at all eligible for them. Most of these people have kids who are born in America and they want to raise their kids in American way. By opposing any relief to these people you can only make them wait longer, you cant just deport them because you wish so. If you have a problem dealing with people who look slightly different than you, learn how to deal with them. You cant just deport all immigrants whether they are legal or illegal just because you wish so. Reply
Aug 24, 2007 6:17 AM Bob Bob  says:
Is it all about trying to replace American's with cheap foreign loabor be it H-1b's or Green Card holders?Can YOU handle the truth?? Do you want the truth, something the mainstream press won't give you???then go to MOST importantly it is about HOW NOT TO HIRE AN AMERICAN WORKER!!!!why not Reply
Aug 24, 2007 10:14 AM Barb Barb  says:
How childish to play the race card, as if people looking different were the only reason to object to them. How about people taking away the livelihoods of citizens who have no homeland to return to if America doesn't work out for them. How about driving down wages below what it costs an American to house his family and pay off his student loans. The fact that you are allowed to want to immigrate while applying for an H-1B visa does not make it an immigration visa. That's like buying a car and expecting a house to come along with it. They are separate things. Those who relied on H-1B as an immigration visa are like people buying a lottery ticket. They took a chance, and are now complaining that their ticket didn't win. But you knew that could happen. Only wishful thinking clouded your mind. And now reality is setting in. Reply
Dec 10, 2009 5:52 AM jessica jessica  says: in response to Barb

There're only two types of job in EB2 & EB3,

1. Bachelor degree with 5 yrs experience or master degree with no experience

2. entry level

Do you see the problem is?? Your so-called study doesn't tell the whole story. These so-called entry level jobs are not actually entry level, it's the labor department categorized them as 'entry' since there no need to specify 1-4 years experience. Furthermore, years of experience doesn't count with the years that you join the current company who is sponsored for your H1b visa and who is applying GC for you.

Now let's talk about the numbers that you have.

Jul 2, 2010 2:08 AM none none  says:

chiness green card holders are stealing u.s. jobs. just look at the u.s post office for that.

Mar 27, 2011 12:18 PM Paul Smith Paul Smith  says:

I'm not Indian or Chinese, I'm Australian. I'm also caught up in this limbo state. I've already been in the US 5 years, my I140 is approved and I still have a 5 year wait to change my status! It is ridiculous. I have considerable assets in Australia that I will not bring to the US until I know I can stay. Multiply this by the million or so people waiting and there's a considerable investment in the US. The closed-minded attitude is ridiculous. I like many others are considering leaving because I can't live in limbo for another 5 years.

Mar 27, 2011 12:21 PM Paul Smith Paul Smith  says: in response to Barb

we're not all entry-level workers on H1B visas. In fact I came here on an L1 visa, but had to change because my L1 expired. L1 is a DUAL INTENT visa, as is the H1B. I work, pay taxes, bought a house, employ Americans and contribute to your economy. I live in an area filled with illegal imigrants from South of the Border who seem to exist with impunity, while i'm here having to prove my status all the time. You're going to end up a 3rd world country, because you reject legitimate educated people and instead pander to the millions upon millions of illegals who contribute very little.


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