Indian Immigrants Who Have Advanced Degrees May Have To Wait 150 Years For Permanent Residency

Longer wait for permanent residency in the U.S.

A significantly large number of Indians will have to wait a long time before they can gain permanent residency in the U.S. (such as through green cards) especially if they are still residing in India. At the moment, the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) has made available the number of applicants that are expected to participate at any one time in each category. The information is potentially helpful in enabling one to determine how much time may be needed for the green cards (that people in different regions have applied for) to be awarded, processed and sent.

Waiting times for 3 EB-visa categories

A look at table 1 below shows the numbers of Indian immigrants who are waiting for approval of their green cards (with reference to their education levels). The statistics show that as of 2018, the number of Indian immigrants as well as their children and spouses who were waiting for green cards is at 632,219. The category in which the waiting time is shortest is EB-1 immigrants (with extraordinary abilities). Their wait time is only 6 years while that of other categories is 17 years (for EB-3 – bachelors’ degree) and 151 years (for EB-2 – advanced degrees).

The present rate of issuing visas shows that there is a category that will have to wait for more than a century and a half to obtain and have their green card approved. Legislatory modifications might change the circumstance but at the moment, that is the anticipated wait time for Indian immigrants with advanced degrees. The time is so long that they might have died by then or have left the country.

Table 1: Number of Indian Immigrants waiting for to obtain Green Cards and have them approved

Indian Immigrants Waiting for Green Cards
Primary Spouse & Children Total Share Waiting 2017 Visas Issued Share of Visas Projected Wait
EB-1: Extraordinary ability 34,824 48,754 83,578 13% 13,082 58% 6 Years
EB-2: Advanced degrees 216,684 216,684 433,368 69% 2,879 13% 151 Years
EB-3: Bachelor’s degrees 54,892 60,381 115,273 18% 6,641 29% 17 Years
Grand Total 306,400 325,819 632,219 100% 22,602 100%

Source: The USCIS annual Visas from the federal department of State.
Note: Statistics on children and spouses are founded on estimates made by the USCIS regarding the ratio of primary to dependent aspirants.

Two caveats

Calculations made on the aspect of anticipated waiting times for Indian immigrants are founded on two caveats. The first is that since a majority of EB-2 workers are qualified under EB-3 based on their possession of a bachelor’s degree – they (or their employees) are allowed to refile based on the EB-3 category.

The inference made is that it is possible for wait times applying to each of the three groups to average out. Many immigrants who fall in the EB-2 backlog have possibly not refiled to have their green card approval to be reconsidered because in the past decade Indian immigrants who fall in groups EB-2 and EB-3 are treated the same.

In addition, refiling is charged (a fee applies) therefore the expense may discourage applicants from engaging in line jumping. Still, averaging the two categories yields a wait time of 58 years for the two categories. The second caveat is that duplicate petitions can be forwarded by different firms with regards to the same people (or persons). There is no means of quantifying the phenomenon but chances are that it is not too substantial since a majority of employers remove the petition in the event that their employee departs. A report by the USCIS indicates that petitions that were revoked or reopened were expelled. The action (revocation) was made in an effort to eliminate any discrepancies that may arise resulting from data of the duplicates.

The allocation of the diversity visa is not determined by the size of the backlog, as demonstrated on Table 1. This explains why EB-2 category received only 13% of all the diversity visas issued in 2017 yet it accounts for 69% of the total backlog. This is due to the following reasons:

    1. The allocation of the diversity visas is the same for all the categories where each of the categories is assured at least 40, 040 green cards. This means that the number of green cards given to each category does not consider the level of demand.
    2. The EB-2 category is currently subject to per-country parameters which restrain Indians from receiving more than 7% of the total diversity visas issued in EB-2. The per-country parameters of employment based diversity visas, are very stringent, especially in cases where a category is packed.

What this implies is that Indians can receive more than 7% of the diversity visas sometimes even reaching 18% of the total green cards issued. The other two categories are rarely packed. For instance, EB-3 category was last filled up in 2012. Demand for green cards in the EB-3 is lower compared to the number of applications in EB-2.

EB-3 category wait could extend from 17 years to 40 years

The third warning raised by the discrepancies in the enforcement of the per-country parameters is that the wait for EB-3 category could extend from 17 years to 40 years. This is a possibility following the current trend of EB-2 applicants applying as EB-3. If the EB-2 and EB-3 categories had received the same number of green cards in 2017, the wait would reduce significantly (from 150 years to 65 years), this of course being at the cost of the EB-3 workers time.

The per-country parameters are unmistakably still very discriminating against the EB-3 workers from India. The implication of the overwhelming green cards applications by Indians is that applicants from other countries sometime get their diversity visas, leaving Indians still in wait. This overwhelming wait for Indian immigrants is the cause of the protest against the prejudice of legal immigration scheme through the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 392). Consequently, the policy makers should come up with policies that address the immigration issue.

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