Some bills, like the U.S. Citizenship Act (S. 348) and the Jumpstart Act (H.R. 7374), propose an expansive recapture window covering nearly 30 years and are inclusive of family- and employment-based green cards. They also propose long-term fixes to the carry-over formula to ensure that green cards are not wasted, and that recapture is not needed, in the future. These bills include other policy solutions to further reduce green card backlogs, like reclassifying dependents of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) as immediate relatives and expanding exemptions from numerical limits for individuals who pay a fee or who have waited in backlogs for many years.
Ultimately, the formula fix and backlog reduction policies in the Jumpstart Act and U.S. Citizenship Act would be the most effective in preventing future green card waste and significantly reducing both the employment- and family-based green card backlogs.
Other proposed bills take narrower approaches targeting specific populations and immigration avenues. For example, the Preserving Employment Visas Act (S. 2828) seeks to recapture unused employment-based green cards only from 2020 and 2021, when the immigration system was severely limited by the Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (S. 1024) recaptures green cards going back to 1992, but makes only 40,000 visas available, with 25,000 for physicians and 15,000 for nurses. The Keeping Our Promise Act (H.R. 3548) limits recapture to diversity visas for individuals who had been denied a chance to apply from 2017-2021.
These narrower bills would certainly be impactful for the specific populations for which they are designed, and would provide immediate relief and solutions for pressing challenges like shortages of health-care workers and expiring diversity visas. But Congress would need to ensure that these targeted approaches are complemented by additional legislation to address the underlying systemic problems driving the green card backlogs and hurting families, or the same problems will emerge again.
The RELIEF Act (S. 3721) is a backlog-reduction bill that does not actually recapture green cards, but would instead increase the annual limits of the number of green cards issued for five years until backlogs are eliminated. This is the most direct way to eliminate green card backlogs, though it would not fix the future waste issue.