Over 400,000 Indian workers in the U.S. hoping for an employment-based green card face a 134-year wait, according to a new analysis by libertarian think tank the Cato Institute.
The U.S. government’s annual cap of 140,000 employment-based visas and the 7% per-country limit have led to a backlog of 1.8 million cases, of which 1.1 million come from India.
In March 2023, there was a backlog of 80,324 employment-based petitions, comprising 171,635 applicants, which includes spouses and minor children. Additionally, 1.3 million people were placed on a waiting list, while 289,000 were in the process of adjusting their status. Some employment-based immigrants were also waiting for their visas to be processed at consulates and embassies abroad, although the State Department has not disclosed the exact number of those cases. According to Cato, there may be some overlap in the backlog due to multiple petitions filed on behalf of the same person.
The majority of backlogged cases fall under the EB-2 category, for workers with advanced degrees. Another 19% are in the EB-3 category for employees with a bachelor’s degree. The EB-4 category, which includes “special immigrants” like Afghan and Iraqi interpreters, accounts for approximately 13% while EB-5 major investors make up 6% of cases.
An overwhelming majority of the backlog, approximately 1.1 million out of 1.8 million cases, is from India (63%), while nearly 250,000 cases hail from China (14%). The Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala contribute nearly 10%, mainly within the EB-4 special immigrant category. For new applicants from India, the backlog in the EB-2 and EB-3 categories effectively translates to a life sentence, with an astonishing 134-year wait. Cato estimates that roughly 424,000 employment-based applicants will pass away while waiting for their green cards.