More than 10.5 lakh Indians are in the queue for an employment-based Green Card and 4 lakh of them may die before they receive the much-sought-after legal document of permanent residency in the US, according to a new study.
This special card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card or Green Card, is like a ticket to live in the US forever. But, there are rules about how many of these cards can go to people from each country.
This year, the number of people waiting for these cards because of their jobs reached a new high of 1.8 million. Most of them, around 1.1 million, are from India.
The problem is that the US has a rule that says no country can get more than 7% of the Green Cards. Because of this rule, Indians waiting for these cards have to wait a very long time.
The study also says that new Indian applicants will have to wait their whole lives, and many of them will not get the card in their lifetime.
Here's how it works: When an employer wants to hire a foreign worker, they apply for a Green Card for them. But if there are too many people waiting for Green Cards from that country, the application is put on hold. The worker can only apply for the Green Card when there's space available.
This process also applies to investors and some other special immigrants, like Afghan interpreters and abandoned immigrant children.
In March 2023, there were about 80,324 applications pending, which included about 171,635 people, along with their spouses and children. Another 1.3 million were waiting for their turn, and 289,000 were waiting for a decision on their Green Card applications.
There are also some people outside the US waiting for their visa decisions, but the government doesn't give exact numbers for those cases.
Some people have multiple applications in the backlog, which makes it harder to count. There's also a backlog of 123,234 applications for a special type of Green Card.
More than half of the backlog is for people with advanced degrees, and about 19% are for people with at least a bachelor's degree. The rest are for "special immigrants" and major investors.
For new applicants from India, the wait for certain categories is like a life sentence - 134 years. About 424,000 people will not get their Green Cards in their lifetime, and most of them are Indians.
Chinese applicants also face a long wait of 17 years in some categories. People from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala also face very long waits.
The Biden administration made some changes to the rules, which might help people from certain countries get Green Cards faster. But even with these changes, there will still be very long waits.
This problem is on top of another backlog for family-sponsored Green Cards, which affects even more people.
All of these long waits show that getting a Green Card and moving to the US legally is very difficult. It takes a lot of luck to even get in line, and even if you do, you might wait for decades or your whole life without getting the card.