The “green card country cap” refers to the limitation on the number of immigrant visas (green cards) that can be issued to individuals from any single country in a fiscal year under certain family and employment-based preference categories. This cap is designed to promote diversity in the allocation of green cards and to prevent any one country from dominating the immigrant visa pool.
The country cap has its origins in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and is implemented through a formula that restricts the number of green cards issued to nationals of a single country to a certain percentage of the total annual worldwide limit. As of my knowledge cutoff date in September 2021, the cap is set at 7% for each country, meaning that no single country can receive more than 7% of the total green cards available in a particular category in a fiscal year.
The country cap can result in longer waiting times for individuals from countries with high demand for U.S. immigrant visas, particularly in the family-based preference categories. In some cases, individuals from countries with lower demand may experience shorter waiting times.
The nationalities most affected by the country cap limitation are citizens of India and China, the two most populous nations in the world.
As of March 2022, there were more than 692,000 individuals from India, including their spouses and dependent children, facing delays in the employment-based green card backlog. More than 106,000 Chinese nationals were also experiencing extended wait times, which amounted to more than 50 years, as reported by FWD.us, a bipartisan advocacy group that advocates for more H-1B visas and green cards.
It’s important to note that there are certain categories and visas, such as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, that are exempt from the country cap. Additionally, the U.S. government periodically updates and revises the visa bulletin, which provides information on visa availability and waiting times for different countries and categories.
The tech industry and Indian H-1B visa holders who are caught in the green card backlog have been advocating for the elimination of the country cap for several years. While various bills have been introduced, none have reached the president’s desk.
Read stories on green card country cap:
200,000 skilled Indians will likely die waiting for a green card (April 11, 2022)
White House endorses Eagle Act to eliminate green card country cap (December 8, 2022)
Bill to remove green card country caps introduced in Senate (July 25, 2022)
House panel approves bill to remove green card country caps (April 7, 2022)
House panel set to vote on bill to remove green card country caps (April 4, 2022)
EAGLE Act, a game changer for green card backlogs? (June 6, 2021)
How will EAGLE Act benefit H-1Bs in green card backlog? (June 2, 2021)
Indian healthcare workers in green card backlog protest at Capitol Hill (April 12, 2021)
Indian American health workers protest green card backlogÂ (March 18, 2021)
Is the bill to end green card country caps, S.386, dead? (December 26, 2020)
S.386/H.R.1044 legislation depends on how much pressure is exerted: Sheela Murthy (December 24, 2020)
Is Indians’ Green Card backlog limbo about to end? (December 3, 2020)
Senate passes S.386, giving ray of hope for Indian nationals in Green Card backlogÂ (December 2, 2020)
Sen. Mike Lee calls S.386 a good bill that needs to pass (February 21, 2020)
The newly passed H.R.1044 raises caps for family-based green cards (July 10, 2019)
Waiting for the Wait to End: The human face of Indian immigrants caught in the Green Card backlog (December 4, 2018)