Understanding the Green Card Backlog

It’s important to lay a solid foundation before we start with the green card backlog in 2023. Call it a force of habit or an occupational hazard, but we like to get our ducks in a row beforehand to maximize your chances of succeeding.

The backlog in this context refers to the piling up of pending applications for permanent residency in the US. More applications exist for family- and employment-based green cards than any other category. Thus, the backlog mainly affects these two applicants.

Understanding the Green Card Backlog

Below are a few reasons that the backlog happens in the first place.

  • Exceeding Limits: The US government issues a limited number of green cards annually. This year, they have announced immigrant visas for approximately 140,000 employment-based applicants. The limit is much higher for family-based applicants but exceeded in both categories. When there are more applicants and not enough visas, you have a backlog;
  • Country-based Quotas: These are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, a seven percent country-based quota ensures that citizens from all countries have a fair chance at a life in the US. Conversely, they lead to longer waiting times for applicants from highly-populated countries;
  • The Bureaucratic Grind: It takes a trifecta, if not a village, to obtain a green card. You’ll encounter three government agencies during the process: The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Departments of State and Labor. Despite the overlapping tasks, these agencies run by their respective rules and have disparate workloads to get through before they can get to your application. Incomplete or incorrect paperwork, limited resources, and extensive security checklists cause further delays.

However, all hope is not lost. Don’t let the country-based limit on immigration visas deter you from seeking a new life in the United States. There are many bills currently in Congress to address the problem.

Take the EAGLE Act. Short for Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment, this bill was recently introduced in Congress. If passed, this bill will remove the cap on employment-based immigration and raise the country-based cap on family-sponsored immigration to 15%.

The Green Card Backlog in 2023

The Green Card Backlog in 2023

An Employment-based Immigration Applicant Sitting Down for an Interview

As of July 2023, there are over 351,821 immigration visa applicants in the US waiting for an interview date. The number of applicants considered “ready for interview” is 388,397. Most interestingly, only 36,576 green card applicants had their interviews scheduled for July.

This backlog resembles the annual backlog of 2022, where the number of applicants scheduled for an interview never breached 39,000. As mentioned previously, this backlog affected applicants from highly-populated countries the most.

You will likely wait longer if you are from China, India, Indonesia, or the Philippines. The backlog primarily affects family-sponsored and employment-based immigration, leading to waiting times of a few months to a few years and even decades. You may not have to wait that long if you aren’t in those two categories.

The Green Card Backlog in 2023

Useful Tips for Green Card Applicants

While the green card backlog looks dire, applicants can be proactive from the start to speed up their immigration process.

Below are some tips that come in handy when emigrating to the US.

  • Start Early: Start the application process as soon as possible. If you don’t have anyone experienced around to guide you, seek green card application assistance through legal counsel to understand the eligibility criteria and get your documentation in order;
  • Note the Initial Petition Date: Also known as a priority date, this is when you officially report your intent to become a permanent US resident. Note it down and check the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin to see how far the priority dates in your category have come. It will give you a fair estimate of how far along your application status is;
  • Qualify for Expedited Processing: The USCIS can expedite the application process for individuals with medical emergencies, humanitarian crises, or time-sensitive job offers. Ask our immigration lawyer, Ingrid Borges Perez Esq., if you qualify for an expedited request;
  • Consular Processing: The US government allows eligible applicants the right to consular processing, allowing them to apply for a green card in their home country. Depending on where you’re from, this option may offer a faster road to obtaining your green card.

A Word of Advice from Our Immigration Lawyer

Whatever path you decide, our immigration lawyer would advise you to maintain legal status in the US. If you want to increase your chances of becoming a permanent US resident, don’t overstay your visa, engage in unauthorized, or do anything that may hurt your application process.

Work with us to apply for marriage-based immigration, or let us walk you through the many nuances of employment-based immigration sponsorship. Receive immigration law consultation in English, Spanish, or Portuguese.

Get in touch for inquiries and concerns.

Attorney Ingrid Borges Perez speaks
English, Portuguese, and Spanish

flag flag flag

I believe that every immigrant
is a future American.

I hope we take this journey together and that
I can offer you a successful outcome.

Send Me a Message

Let Me Help You

Send Me Your Case