The country-based quota system is responsible for the exceedingly long wait times for Green Cards for people from India, China, Mexico and the Philippines, a senior US official said.
The Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to US immigrants who have secured permanent residency status.
Douglas Rand, the Senior Advisor to the director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), said the annual limit established by Congress on family-sponsored preference Green Cards is 226,000 for the whole world while the annual limit on employment-based Green Cards is 140,000.
On top of that, the per-country limit is set at seven per cent of the total annual family-sponsored and employment-based preference limits, he told Indian-Americans during a virtual town hall organised by the State Department on visa and consular issues.
"That means 25,620. That is why individuals from India, China, Mexico and the Philippines typically face such long wait times than people from other countries," Rand said in response to a question.
"There is demand for so many more than 25,620 Green Cards for both family and employment-based every year. Unfortunately, only Congress can change these annual limits. So our job is to do everything we can within these constraints to ensure that when those Green Card numbers are available, we make sure that they're utilised each and every year," Rand said.
For hundreds of thousands of Indian professionals, the wait for Green Card has currently been more than a decade and many a time the Visa wait time goes back by years.
"Suffice to say for now that it is about supply and demand. Congress has constrained supply. Demand continues to go up. Not just from India, but all over the world. When the demand for a particular Green Card category or a country within a category exceeds the supply of numbers available then that category and country are considered oversubscribed," Rand said.
The United States' Democratic party recently introduced a Citizenship Act which, among other things, seeks to eliminate the country-quota for green cards and make changes in the much sought-after H-1B visa system.
The State Department applies a cut-off date in the visa bulletin to ensure that visa use remains within those annual limits as well as the category and per country limits. The order of consideration is established by Congress.
"Retrogression means that due to the high demand for visas exceeding the statutory limits, visas are not available to all non-citizens who want them even if they've already filed an application for adjustment of status or otherwise for permanent residency," he said.
Rand emphasised the US plans to continue improving the accuracy and comprehensiveness of its data on employment-based adjustment of status applications.
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US Senator Alex Padilla (D-California), chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety, and US Congresswoman Deborah Ross (D-North Carolina) recently announced the reintroduction of the bipartisan America’s Children Act, which they stated was drafted to protect over 250,000 Documented Dreamers living in the United States.
“Depending on the facts of the case, children who have also applied for adjustment of status might not age out. That individual is generally considered to be in a period of authorised stay while the application is pending," Rand added.