In a positive development for Indian-Americans awaiting their green cards, a member of the US President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders has proposed the recapture of all unused green cards for family and employment categories since 1992.
In his set of recommendations submitted before the Commission on Thursday (6 July), Ajay Bhutoria, an Indian-American member of the panel, proposed the recapture of over 230,000 unused employment-based green cards from 1992 to 2022 and processing a portion of these every fiscal year in addition to the annual limit of 1,40,000 for this category.
Bhutoria said that the “Recapture Unused Green Cards and Prevent Future Green Card Waste” aims to address bureaucratic delays in the green card application process and provide relief to individuals waiting in backlogs.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the authority to issue a specific number of family-based and employment-based immigrant visas each year, as authorised by Congress.
However, bureaucratic delays have resulted in the under-utilisation of available green cards, leading to accumulation of unused green cards over the years, he added.
To address this issue, Bhutoria has proposed two key solutions.
Firstly, he suggested that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State should recapture unused green cards for family and employment categories from 1992 through 2025.
This would include recapturing over 230,000 unused employment-based green cards from 1992 to 2022, and processing a portion of these each fiscal year in addition to the annual limit of 140,000 for the employment-based category, according to Bhutoria.
Secondly, the State Department, in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security, should adopt a new policy to confirm that all green cards, per the annual limit, remain available for eligible immigrants even if the agencies cannot process the relevant paperwork in that fiscal year.
Additionally, this policy should be applied retroactively to recapture green cards that were unused before the new policy goes into effect, he said.
Bhutoria noted that his recommendation highlights the negative consequences of under-utilised green cards on individuals, families, and the US economy.
Bhutoria further said that the unused green cards represent missed opportunities for the country and contribute to the growing backlog, particularly impacting Indian-American, Filipino-American, and Chinese-American families.
Furthermore, temporary workers on H-1B visas face mobility restrictions and limited opportunities to contribute to the U.S. economy due to the absence of a green card.
Children of these temporary workers are at risk of ageing out of immigration status when they turn 21, he said.
He said his recommendation aligns with proposals introduced in the 117th Congress to recapture green cards that were previously unissued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) due to administrative errors.
According to Bhutoria, recapturing these unused green cards would not only inject billions of dollars into the economy but also reduce the backlog for families waiting for green cards. Additionally, it would help alleviate unnecessary bureaucratic limitations on legal immigration.
Over the past two decades, the waiting list for family-sponsored green cards has grown by over 100 per cent, according to the Congressional Research Service.
As of 2020, there were around 4.2 million individuals waiting for family-sponsored green cards, with an average wait time of six years.
Similarly, for employment-based green cards, around 1.2 million individuals were waiting, also with an average wait time of six years.
However, Indian IT professionals face an even longer wait, with an average wait time of over a decade, and many have been waiting for their green cards for 15 years.
In his remarks before the Commission, Bhutoria praised the Biden administration for implementing several recommendations put forth by the Commission.
In December last year, the Commission made recommendations to address the issue of significant visa appointment wait times.
The administration has made efforts to reduce wait times and improve the visa appointment process.
Visa appointment delays have been significantly reduced to two-four weeks, allowing individuals to plan their travel and immigration processes more efficiently.
Students applying for a student visa can now do so up to one year prior to their college admission date, providing them with greater flexibility and ease of transition.
The Commission had also recommended revising the process for aging out kids on their parents’ green card application in December last year.
The USCIS has now revised the Child Age-Out Calculation Policy to provide greater clarity and fairness in certain immigration cases. This ensures that eligible children retain their eligibility for immigration benefits and do not age out of the system.
“These recent immigration updates reflect the direct impact of the Commission’s recommendations and the commitment of the Biden administration to help families and create immigration policies that are more inclusive, efficient, and responsive to the needs of our communities,” Bhutoria said, reports The Hindu.