Sometime around the summer of 2021, there started a conversation about the possible wastage of existing green cards. Several reasons including the pandemic and the resultant lockdowns led to USCIS not being able to utilize the annual quota for last year. This obviously led to a lot of resentment among potential green card applicants. But this mostly irked those waiting for over a decade after applying for the immigrant visa for permanent residency.
Why Were There Unused Green Cards During The Pandemic?
The US Congress puts a limit on the number of green cards issued every year – 226,000 for family based immigration and 140,000 as the employment based immigration. If fewer than the allotted 226,000 family based green cards are issued in a fiscal year, the remaining are added to the employment based green cards.
With what happened with in 2020 – Covid lockdowns, US consulate closures abroad and significantly reduced working staff – a much smaller percentage of family based green cards were issued. Precisely, 106,000 out of the 226,000. This meant that an additional 120,000 green cards were added to the employment based quota in 2020 year.
As for employment based green cards, USCIS approved only 180,000 and wasted 80,000 visas.
Extra Green Cards Available In 2022
Further down, this conversation turned around a bit and took a slightly positive turn. Now the conversation was about how there could possibly be additional green cards available in 2022 due to the spillover from the past 2 years. This is definitely makes the scores of people waiting in the long wait much happier.
Current data suggests that a record 150,000 excess green cards are expected to be made available in fiscal year 2022 as opposed to the 122,000 in FY 2021. This equates to over 290,000 employment-based green cards.
However, per USCIS rules, no single country is allowed more than 7% of the total number. But if the green cards for family based green cards are not completely used up, then the remaining can be issued for the employment-based green card applicants.
How Can You Use These Available Green Cards To Your Advantage?
The current fiscal year is from October 2021 to September 2022. While USCIS and the US Department of State intend to use all these visa numbers this fiscal year, the pandemic conditions make it slightly skeptical.
Among the different categories of employment based visas, more employment-based first (EB-1 priority workers) and second (EB-2 workers with advanced degrees or exceptional ability) preference visas are available than pending Form I-485 adjustment of status applications.
Those who are eligible should consider applying in EB-1 and EB-2 categories. Those with pending EB-3 adjustment of status applications who also have a pending or approved EB-2 Form I-140 and an available visa in EB-2 category should consider requesting the USCIS to transfer the “underlying basis” of their Form I-485 applications.
To be eligible for this transfer, the applicants must meet the following criteria:
- They have continuously maintained eligibility for adjustment of status.
- Their original I-485 applications are still pending.
- They are eligible for the new immigrant category, and
- They have a visa immediately available in the new immigrant category.
Please noteUSCIS uses its discretion to approve or deny requests to transfer an applicant’s underlying basis. Please consult a qualified immigration lawyer before making any changes to your green card application.