An Explanation about Green Card Backlogs by the NPZ Law Group

A green card is a means for its recipient to remain permanently in the United States with the possibility of seeking citizenship. However, green card backlogs have led to many applicants waiting for excessive periods of time for their permanent residency (PR). In addition, the H.R. 3648 Bill, aimed to offer relief to immigrant workers dealing with decades of PR waiting periods due to “country of origin” allocations, did not receive enough votes on the House floor recently. The failure of this Bill is just one instance of even immigration advocates failing to address the issue of green card backlogs. Thus, this article highlights some of the causes for these backlogs.

The Causes for the Green Card Backlogs

The per-year green card allocation is capped at 140,000. Therefore, applicants with approved petitions are stuck in backlogs because there are no more green cards available for that year. In some cases, green cards may not be available for years.

At the same time, there are caps based on the applicant’s country of origin. Therefore, there is a maximum cap of only 7% of the visas being provided to applicants from a specific country of origin. Chinese and Indian applicants face the most significant waiting periods because most highly-skilled immigrant workers with H-1B visas in the US come from those two countries.

H-1B visas are for workers with a specialty occupation, which predominantly includes workers in engineering, tech, and the medical fields. Thus, the tech boom has increased the number of highly-skilled employees from abroad working in the US faster than there are green cards available. Therefore, there are far too many applicants to reduce the backlog with the given PR caps.

The COVID-19 pandemic also led to the rollover of unused family-based green cards. Therefore, even though there were almost twice as many employment-based visas available during 2020 and 2021, the long-term backlog was barely affected, with almost 1.4 million applications last year.

What’s alarming about the waiting period now is that some applicants from India may remain in the backlog all their lives without being able to acquire permanent residency in the US.

There has also been an increase in the number of children of those immigrant workers (that are still waiting on their green card status) who needed to be removed from the United States after exceeding the age of dependent status in recent years. Children of temporary visa holders who are above the age of 21 cannot enter and remain in the US as dependents, but they can do so if they are younger. If they exceed that age, they must secure their own visa.

If you have any questions about how the immigration and nationality laws in the United States may impact you or your family members or if you want to access additional information about the United States or Canadian immigration and nationality laws, please feel free to get in touch with the immigration and nationality lawyers at NPZ Law Group. You can send us an email at or call us at 201-670-0006 extension 104. In addition, we invite you to find more information on our website at