Sat. May 15th, 2021

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86,000 odd Indian children will age out owing to the green card backlog, with a risk of family separation

4 min read
green card backlog

Of the 8.15 lakh Indians who are trapped in the green card backlog, which for most will take 84 years to process, 1.57 lakh are youngsters. The most adverse effect of the decades-long waiting period is for the children, a greater part of whom will age out before a green card can be acquired. This, in, turn, carries with it a high danger of family separation.

Every year the US puts aside just 1.40 lakh green cards for employment-based candidates and there is a 7% per-nation cap. Given the heavy deluge of Indians in the US. Most of them holding an H-1B visa, this restrictive policy poses challenges.

The employment-based green card backlog from India (EB-2 and EB-3 skilled category) has arrived at 7.41 lakh in April 2020, with an expected wait time of 84 years. These are the discoveries of an ongoing report conducted by David J. Casket, an immigration policy expert with the Cato Institute, a US-based research organization. Over a lakh, or to be more exact – 1.36 lakh kids from Indian families fall in the backlog of this specific category. And 84,675 of them (or 62%) will age out without getting a green card.

Green card backlog for Indians and waiting period

CategoryBacklogYears to process
EB-1 (Priority – for individuals with extraordinary abilities)74,0165
EB-2 and EB-3 (for skilled employees)741,20984
EB-30 (for unskilled workers)45313
EB-5 (for investors – known as cash for green card)146
Total backlog for Indians815,824

When children turn 21, they can no longer continue with their H-4 visa. Which is intended for dependents and is attached to their parent’s H-1B work visa. On aging out (attaining the age of 21) they have no alternative except to get an F-1 visa meant for international students, which comes with its own difficulties, for example, restricted work openings while a student and higher fees. Further, F-1 visa candidates need to prove non-immigration expectations – for kids that have aged out and whose family is in the US, meeting these requirements is one more hurdle that needs to be crossed. The main other option is to self deport to India, huge numbers of these kids grew up in the US and have little or no connection with India and relatives who reside here.

Green Card

Bier has tweeted: “Employment-based immigrants from India and China set up with a great deal of bad governmental policies… the worst indignity brought upon these talented future Americans is how the system treats their children.”

In total, 2.56 lakh children are in the line for a green card, including those in the skilled category backlog. Of the kids in the EB-2 and EB-3 category backlog for green cards, 1.57 lakh (62%) are from India, another 49,835 (20%) from China, and 46,394 (18%) from different nations.

About 1.04 lakh kids will age out of eligibility throughout the next twenty years. This is about 40% of the whole green card youngster backlog. More than four in five of the aging out youngsters will come from India—a higher proportion than even their current share of the backlog (62%), states the study.

Children of Indian families caught in the backlog

CategoryBacklogNo. of kids who will age out
EB-1 (Priority – for individuals with extraordinary abilities)20,6631,454
EB-2 and EB-3 (for skilled employees)136,22284,675
EB-30 (for unskilled workers)11933
EB-5 (for investors – known as cash for green card)610
Total157,06586,162

Bier adds, “Again, the fact Chinese and Indians dominate the backlog is the result of the nation covers where green cards are not given relatively to the number of pending candidates in every nation but instead limited arbitrarily at 7% per nation of birth.”

[December 2020 Visa Bulletin]

“These youngsters must fight to stay in the nation that they have grown up in, graduated from high school in, and have built their lives in. Even if they get a student visa, they should try to win an H-1B visa through the lottery system, where remaining with their family and their received nation is up to random chance. Obviously, even if they get the H-1B visa, they are thrown to the back of a massive eight- decade long wait for green cards, even though they had already waited in line for 10 years or more with their parents,” states Bier in his study.

A bill, viz: S 386, which tries to lift the per-nation green card limit was blocked in the US Senate. While Biden’s proposed immigration policy includes increasing the number of employment-based green cards and elimination of country caps, which creates unacceptably long backlogs particularly for India and China, these will need to be introduced via the House and the Senate. Thus, according to immigration experts, introducing such a change will take time and the problem cannot be resolved in a jiffy.

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