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FREE DOWNLOAD: Click Here To Download The Employers Guide to the H-1B Process.
Approved Recommendation Could Reopen 230,000 Unused Green Cards

In a significant move to support potential US immigrants, the US President’s Advisory Commission has approved a recommendation to recapture up to 230,000 green cards that have gone unused since 1992. 

Normally, the US offers up to 140,000 green cards annually. However, these visas are subject to caps based on country of origin. Only 7% of the 140,000 limit may be granted to people from any country. That means that, at most, 9,800 people from one country may be given a permanent resident visa each year. 

That’s a problem for people from large countries, particularly India, with its population of 1.43 billion, the highest in the world. People born in India who wish to enter the US on an employment-based visa have significant competition for the limited number of visas available. Even if their I-140 is approved, they may face a retrogression period that lasts years or even decades. 

That’s why the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders has approved the recommendation to recapture unused visas. Its approval was issued in tandem with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US. It signals the administration’s intention of working to improve conditions for people seeking to enter the US on an employment-based visa, many of whom come from India. Here’s what the approval means for potential immigrants and what to do until policy matches the Commission’s recommendation.

Benefits of Recapturing Unused Green Cards

The recommendation to recapture green cards is not just a diplomatic move. The Advisory Commission’s announcement suggests that the recaptured cards could be specifically used to reduce the wait time for people approved for employment-based visas. If this plan is adopted, it could offer benefits such as: 

  • Reducing Visa Backlogs: 1.2 million people are waiting for employment-based permanent residency visas, and the average wait time for Indian applicants is over a decade. Recapturing unused green cards would reduce this significantly.
  • Bringing Skilled Workers to the US: By focusing on employment-based applicants, the plan would directly encourage skilled workers to come to the US instead of competing centers of industry.
  • Reducing Strain on H-1B Sponsor Businesses: Employers who sponsor foreign nationals for H-1B visas would face less risk that their critical employees would be forced to leave the country after their visas expire.
  • Boosting the Economy: The Niskanen Center estimates that recapturing unused employment permanent residency visas could add approximately $265 billion to the US economy over the next ten years. 

In other words, the policy should benefit everyone, from green card recipients and their employers to the average US citizen who benefits from economic growth. 

Making the Most of the Retrogression Wait

Recapturing unused green cards has been a significant focus of US immigration legislation recently. However, Congress has yet to pass any bills that would provide a standard rule for how this would occur. Without a specific law in place, USCIS must take the Advisory Commission’s recommendation and build a plan for how it will be carried out. Likely, this will not occur until 2024 at the earliest. 

Still, there are still things potential US immigrants and their sponsors can do to make the most of the retrogression period. 

  • Maintain legal status under a current visa. If an applicant has an H-1B or other visa already, they should work with their sponsor and a skilled immigration attorney to ensure they maintain their legal status in the US under that visa.
  • Study for the US citizenship test. Most people seeking green cards would like to one day become US citizens. The retrogression period is an excellent time to practice English skills and other subjects covered by the citizenship test.
  • Keep your information up-to-date with USCIS. All applicants must inform USCIS about details such as address changes, marriage, and birth of new legal dependents. Keep your information updated to avoid complications later. 
  • Apply for Advanced Parole. The retrogression period can be long. While waiting, apply for Advanced Parole so you can leave the US to travel if necessary. 

The Advisory Commission’s approval is an important step toward shorter green card wait times. However, there’s still a long way to go for many people. If you want to ensure you or your sponsored candidate has the best chance of successfully receiving a green card, speak to the expert immigration attorneys at Litwin & Smith. We have half a century of experience guiding families and businesses through the US immigration process. Schedule your consultation to learn how we can help your application stay on track.

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