The delay in granting permanent legal status to these talented high-skilled workers might prompt them to leave US for another country- a loss the companies can ill afford in a tight labour market, according to a report on axios.com.
With the wait for a greencard likely to run into decades, the concern was also echoed by Intel director of workforce policy David Shahoulian.
“That may mean that we lose out on some top talent as a nation,” he said.
Annually the US sets aside only 1.40 lakh green cards for employment-based applicants and there is a 7% per country cap. Given the heavy influx of Indians in the US – majority of them holding an H-1B visa, this restrictive policy poses challenges and has resulted in a massive backlog for them in the employment- based category.
According to a recent study done by David J Bier, immigration policy analyst at Cato Institute, a Washington headquartered think-tank, the employment based green card backlog for skilled Indians had reached 7.19 lakh in September 2021, with an expected wait time of 90 years.
The number of employment-based greencards made available in the last two years have seen a jump, thanks to a drop in applications for family-based visas in 2020. The drop is attributed to slow processing due to the pandemic and certain policies of the Trump administration.
Apart from the employment category, another 226,000 “family preference” green cards are reserved for family members of US citizens and permanent residents. In years when family preference visas remain unutilised, due to low demand or processing delays or both, the unused visas are moved to the “employment-based category,” but they lapse unless awarded by the end of the next fiscal year.
The 280,000 employment-based green cards available this year is double the usual 140,000- a number frozen since 1990. But on the flip-side, 100,000 of these are likely to go awaste. This, despite the employment-based applications being one of USCIS’s “highest priority workloads.” Last year too, 66,500 of the 260,000 available had gone waste.
Fewer than half of Google employees’ green card applications since October 2020 have been processed, according to the company’s chief legal officer Kent Walker. He insisted that companies like Google need talented people from all over the world “just to keep up.”
Intel notes that roughly 70% of engineering and computer science students in master’s and PhD programs in US universities are foreign-born. So, there aren’t enough Americans to fill the company’s high-skilled jobs.
“When employees are going through this process, the fear, uncertainty, anxiety and doubt created by the backlog in processing is just brutal,” Microsoft associate general counsel Jack Chen said.
USCIS said it is making staffing and resource allocations to limit the potential for the visas to go unused. It used more of the visas in the first half of this fiscal year than it did for the same time period last year, it said.
The tech companies noted the uptick in the speed for processing green cards, and said they are hopeful officials will build on that momentum.
They are also hoping for some federal measures to ease high-skilled immigration, riding on wide-ranging legislation meant to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing.