Green Card Waste: What Is It?

Green card waste became a top-tier topic of discussion among lawmakers, immigrants, and many immigration forums during the Covid-19 pandemic. This topic gained public interest because of the impact of the worldwide travel restrictions, office closures, and lockdowns enforced during the pandemic. However, this problem wasn’t new to the USCIS.

Green card waste is also deeply rooted in the shortcomings of the US immigration system and government regulations, blocking millions of immigrants from legally living and working in the US.

This article discusses the facts about green card waste and why it matters to you as an immigrant.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this is NOT legal advice. If you need to speak to a marriage green card attorney, please call us at 253-332-9193 or send us a message online

What is Green Card Waste?

Green card wastage is a subsequent result of backlogs and delays at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. These backlogs derive from accumulated caseloads and unissued green cards that the agency carries to a new year.

For example, the USCIS issued only 38 percent of 226,000 family-based green cards available in 2021. As a result, the agency wasted over 140,000 green cards despite having millions of application caseloads. 

The biggest question is, what happens to unissued green cards? 

This brief description of how the immigration system works will help you answer this question.

Congress established a statute in 1992 putting a numerical limit to the number of cards the USCIS issues every year. For example, the numerical limit for family-based green cards is 226,000, while employment-based green card is 140,000.

In addition, the statute provides a formula to calculate these values. Although the formula was designed to be waste-free, some critics blame it for exacerbating green card waste and USCIS backlogs. This is because the formula doesn’t always yield the desired results in some complex situations.

Here’s why.

The State rolls over the unissued family-based green cards for one year to the employment-based green cards of the following year, and vice versa. This method favors the employment-based category but doesn’t have the same impact on the family-based category because its formula is complicated.

First, the State subtracts the number of admitted immediate relatives of the previous year from a base of 480,000. This value obtained then adds to the rolled-over employment-based green cards of the prior year. 

If the final value from this calculation falls below the numerical limit of 226,000, the State disregards it. Instead, it avails 226,000 family-based green cards for that year as per the statute’s limit. Therefore, the rolled-over green cards add no value to the new number of allocated green cards. In addition, those green cards don’t roll over to the new year; they become green card waste.

Causes of Green Card Wastage

Like any other institution, the USCIS faces numerous challenges affecting its performance and productivity. Some of these challenges relate to the immigration system, while others are external influences.

These challenges include the following:

Global Covid-19 Pandemic Restrictions: The Covid-19 pandemic caused massive green card wastage in 2020 and 2021. In addition, the pandemic continues to create uncertainties about traveling and lifting stringent restrictions. As a result, the processing times for green cards in different categories are still long.

Per Country Limits: Some countries like India and China have millions of immigrants stuck in backlogs because of the per-country caps.

Changing Laws: New executive orders, directives, and laws affect the normal processes of the immigration system. As a result, the agency experiences delays and caseloads.

Budget Shortages: The USCIS also encounters administrative challenges such as staff shortages that reduce productivity due to budget deficits.

Steps Taken to Solve Green Card Waste Problems

The USCIS and the government have implemented several solutions to ease USCIS backlogs and reduce delays and waste. These solutions include:

Increased Budget

The government increased funding for the USCIS in 2022 to tackle the overflowing backlogs in the agency. In addition, the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2023 seeks to add more funding to the agency.

Green Card Recapture

The government also plans to recapture unissued green cards to increase the yearly limits for employment and family-based green card. This exercise may revive more than one million green cards wasted since 1990.

Here’s an informative read about green card recapture and how it benefits intending immigrants.

USCIS internal Action Plans

The USCIS announced an internal action plan to reduce internal caseloads. These plans include:

  • Increasing premium processing to allow more immigrants to apply for expedited processing
  • Waiving interviews for applications with low-security risks
  • Waiving biometric recapturing appointments
  • Setting internal cycle times goals to monitor the number of unprocessed cases
  • Increasing staffing levels 

And more. 

Green Card Wastage FAQs

Here are common questions people ask regarding green card wastage.

What Is Green Card Recapture?

Green card recapture is the State’s plan to re-issue wasted green cards to reduce USCIS backlogs. This plan increases the number of green cards the State avails every year, allowing the USCIS to issue more green cards to eligible immigrants. 

Why Is the USCIS Taking Long to Process Green Cards in 2022?

The USCIS hasn’t fully restored its pre-pandemic operating levels. As a result, the agency has overflowing caseloads to process, increasing waiting times. 

Your application may also delay due to many other reasons, such as:

  • Improper filing 
  • Missing information 
  • Insufficient supporting documents
  • Case complexities

What Is the Marriage Green Card Processing Timeline for 2022?

The marriage green card processing timelines range between 24 to 36 months. This timeline varies depending on the immigrant’s family preference category and whether they’re married to a US citizen or a permanent resident.

Here’s a more detailed look at USCIS processing times 2022 for marriage green cards, work permits, asylum petitions, and more. 

Key Takeaways 

Green card waste has denied many eligible immigrants the chance to live and work in the US. However, the USCIS and the government employ effective strategies to solve this problem. For example, the green card recapture strategy reuses wasted green cards and increases the number of green cards the State allocates every year.

Green card recapture and other solutions have numerous benefits to immigrants. For example, immigrants can now take advantage of the expanded premium processing to expedite some green card processes to reduce the waiting time.

If you’ve been waiting in line for a green card, you may want to contact an experienced immigration attorney to learn how you can expedite your petition. 

Call The Law Office of Serah Waweru at (253) 332-9193 to schedule a consultation today or send us a message online and we’ll respond as soon as possible.

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