When will I get my "green card?"

Now that your I-485 application for adjustment of status has been filed, the next logical question is "When will I get my green card?"   Unfortunately, the answer is likely to be, "not for a very long time."

The numbers tell the story:

Only 140,000 visas (or adjustment of status applications) for employment based applicants can be granted in each year.

Subject to some adjustment for numbers flowing between categories, only 40,040 visas can be issued in the second (EB2) and third (EB3) employment based categories.

When an immigrant enters the U.S. as an EB3, with a spouse and two children, four visa numbers are used - not one.  The average employment based immigrant family will use between two and three visa numbers.  That means less than 70,000 families will enter the U.S. each year as employment based applicants - and fewer than 20,000 families based on an EB3 or EB2 preference category.

And it gets worse.  

Each country is limited to no more than seven percent of the total of visas available, and if it appears that a country will use its full seven percent, their limits also apply within preference categories.  That doesn't matter for most countries, but is critical for those from India or China.  For instance, we believe there were over 20,000 I-485 applications already pending at the USCIS on June 1, 2007 for Indian EB3 applicants.  And the State Department will only approve visa issuance for about 2,800 per year.  That's seven year's worth of Indian EB3 applicants alone already on the USCIS shelf!

A prediction come true?

The USCIS Ombudsman, Prakash Khatri, issued his Annual Report to Congress on June 11, 2007 - before the July visa debacle.  Here is what he has to say about wait times:

 

If the priority date became current today, due to delayed USCIS processing and thus underutilization of visa numbers, some have predicted that within a few months as many as 500,000 to 750,000 individuals now residing in the United States under a temporary worker visa could apply for a green card. Additionally, DOLís recent backlog elimination efforts, scheduled to be completed by September 30, 2007, are predicted to add 70,000 or more approved labor certifications yielding as many as 170,000 additional green card applications. As USCIS begins to complete these applications and request visa numbers from DOS, the 140,000 statutorily authorized visa numbers will be used. DOS then will be required to retrogress priority dates. Consequently, most applicants in this scenario will find themselves trapped where as they anticipated timely receipt of a green card, their wait exceeds seven or more years. In addition, all future employment-based green card applicants effectively would be barred from applying for many years  (Page 35 - emphasis added)

And as long as the waits appear - they may turn out to be even longer.  Before the USCIS began its project in June and July of seemingly processing cases wholesale, they were on course to use less than 110,000 of the 140,000 employment based visa numbers available this fiscal year.  Although they have requested 68,000 visa numbers in the last 30 days (more than they requested in the first 8 months of the year), it remains to be seen if those numbers will be used - or will be returned to the State Department.  

A wait of seven years - if 140,000 visa numbers a year are used - becomes even longer if only 110,000 a year get used.

But we hope its not really going to take that long - because we hope that the same  forces which caused a reversal in the USCIS decision to cutoff I-485 fillings in July will force a change in the law.  And those of you who helped overturn the USCIS decision, can help make this happen.  We will be posting links to specific actions you can take to help make it happen.