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Country-Based Quota Causes Lengthy Green Card Wait for India

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A senior official has explained that the lengthy and arduous wait for green cards faced by individuals from India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines is primarily due to the country-based quota system, which can only be modified by the US Congress.

Green cards, officially known as Permanent Resident Cards, are issued to immigrants in the US as proof of their permanent residency. The country-based caps impose numerical restrictions on the allocation of green cards to individuals from specific countries.

According to immigration law, approximately 140,000 employment-based green cards are meant to be issued annually. However, only seven percent of these green cards can be granted to individuals from a single country each year.

During a virtual town hall organized by the State Department on visa and consular issues, Douglas Rand, the Senior Advisor to the director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), explained that the Congress-established annual limit for family-sponsored preference green cards is 226,000 for the entire world, while the annual limit for employment-based green cards is 140,000.

Furthermore, the per-country limit is set at seven percent of the total annual limits for family-sponsored and employment-based preferences. As a result, individuals from India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines often experience longer wait times compared to people from other countries.

Rand emphasized that there is a significant demand for far more than 25,620 green cards annually for both family and employment-based categories.

However, only Congress has the authority to modify these annual limits. Therefore, their goal is to maximize the utilization of available Green Card numbers within these constraints.

For many Indian professionals, the wait for a Green Card has exceeded a decade, and visa wait times often extend by several years. Rand attributed this situation to supply and demand dynamics, stating that Congress has limited the supply while demand continues to rise not only from India but from around the world.

When the demand for a particular Green Card category or a specific country exceeds the available numbers, that category and country are considered oversubscribed.

The State Department applies a cut-off date in the visa bulletin to ensure that visa usage remains within the annual and per-country limits.

This figure includes dependents of primary applicants. Therefore, roughly 2,000 individual H-1B applicants from India receive green cards each year.

Every year, 85,000 H-1B work visas are issued, with nearly 60 percent allocated through a fair lottery system to tech workers from India. This amounts to around 51,000-60,000 H-1B visas.

Technology companies heavily rely on it to hire tens of thousands of employees annually from countries such as India and China.

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