Despite 2021 Demand, US Government Failed to Issue 25% Employment Visas

New official data released by the government has shown that despite enormous labor demand by employers and more than one million immigrants waiting for an employment-based green card, the government failed to issue 66,781 of the cards available for issue last year. In 2021, 1.4 million immigrants were waiting for an employment-based green card. Yet, the government used 195,507 of the 262,288 employment-based green cards that were available. This means the government did not issue approximately one-quarter of the employment-based visas they could have. The government stated that the actual number of green cards they failed to issue in 2021 was a bit over 62,000.

Employment-based immigrant visa/green card caps, issued, and unused cap numbers

Fiscal Year 2021

Category Issued Cap Unused Share Unused
Total 195,507 262,288 66,781 25%
EB-1 Executives/Extraordinary 61,496 75,014 + EB4/5 unused 13,518 18%
EB-2 Executives/Advanced Degree 59,741 75,014 + EB1 unused 15,273 20%
EB-3 Bachelor’s and Others 55,240 75,014 + EB1/2 unused 19,774 26%
EB-4 Religious/Other special 16,081 18,622 2,541 14%
EB-5 Investors 2,949 18,622 15,673 84%

Source: State Department. “Annual Report of the Visa Office” Table V, 2020, 2021.

The cap system allows those green cards that are not issued in one category to be used in the next. This is intended to ensure that the full number of available employment-based visas are issued each year. However, the system stopped working during the last fiscal year.

The waste of green cards has a particularly significant impact on Indian immigrants since so many of the immigrants waiting for green cards due to the cap are Indians. This happens due to the law that restricts immigrants from a single country from obtaining more than 7% of the available green cards in a single year. Indian immigrants that have been waiting for years continue to wait, but immigrants from other countries can get a green card right away if the country has not yet used their 7% of the green cards available.

However, if not all of the countries use their full number of visas, Indians can use the visas that are leftover. According to law, unused family-based green cards are also added to the available employment-based green cards in the following year. The reassignment of unused family-based green cards increased the available employment-based green cards by 120,000 in 2021. This would have allowed a lot more Indians to receive green cards. However, since over 62,000 of these green cards were wasted, many Indians failed to obtain a green card they should have received.

Based on the First Quarter Fiscal Year To Date 2022 numbers in addition to statements from agency officials and attorneys, the US Government is unfortunately on the same track for 2022.

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