Imagility News

In 2022, Only 45% of Green Cards in Employment-Based Categories Were Granted to Workers

US Immigration System’s Focus on Family Reunification Affects Employment-Based Green Cards

The immigration system in the United States leans towards family reunification, even within the employment-based (EB) green card categories. Current interpretations of US immigration law indicate that family members of immigrant workers must use EB green cards. This aligns with the approach in some other OECD countries like Japan, Spain, and Ireland, where more immigrants enter on visa categories as workers than as family members. However, the US exhibits a more significant difference, as family members receive green cards that could otherwise go to skilled workers.

In 2022, 55% of EB green cards were granted to family members of workers, while the workers themselves received the remaining 45%. This distribution has remained similar in 2020 and 2021. Notably, Congress capped the EB green card category at 140,000 per year, but the federal government issued 270,284 in 2022. This was made possible by reallocating unused family-based green cards from the previous year.

The EB green cards are divided into five categories, each catering to different types of workers or investors along with their family members. The current approach includes family members by convention, not statutory regulation.

To ensure family-based immigration isn’t hindered by the numerical cap of EB green cards, there are calls for Congress to either exempt family members from the cap or create a new category for them. This approach would prevent a reduction in workers and potentially increase immigrant workers by 120% without adjusting the cap.

Exempting adjustments of status from the EB green card cap could lead to various benefits, including reducing the backlog imposed by per-country caps. This reform would be particularly advantageous for Indian workers on H-1B visas, decreasing wait times without adversely affecting immigrants from other countries.

Considering various exemption options, including education levels, fields of study, wage offers, and work in specific occupations, presents an opportunity to make the green card system more open and flexible. Exempting adjustments of status from the cap appears to be a favorable policy, offering benefits without sparking debates about arbitrary numerical caps.

Source: Cato