Green Card Backlog News & Updates for 2023

Written by: Rongjie Zhao
Last Updated by Ailen Faiad: May 18, 2023
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Based on the USCIS official website, USCIS Releases New Data on Effective Reduction of Green Card Backlog Backlogs, Support for Humanitarian Missions, and Fiscal Responsibility.

USCIS released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 progress report with new information demonstrating how it reduced Green Card Backlog in certain programs and supported humanitarian missions. The report summarizes numerous steps USCIS has taken, which include strengthening its fiscal stability and implementing adjudicatory efficiencies, policy measures, and agency-wide backlog reduction efforts. Furthermore, USCIS has continued to support its humanitarian programs.

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Green Card Backlog News​

Congressional Support

Congressional support of the agency’s FY 2023 budget request will be critical to help support humanitarian services and eliminate current Green Card Backlog based on historical data. The report also highlights how furlough notices, a hiring freeze, and drastic cuts to contract staff during the COVID-19 pandemic critically impacted USCIS’s ability to keep pace with incoming applications, heightening the need for USCIS to pursue an upcoming fee rule to prevent the accumulation of new backlogs in the future.

In addition, USCIS expanded its existing humanitarian mission and responded to emerging priorities for the U.S. government, such as Operation Allies Welcome, Uniting for Ukraine, and the recently announced Process for Venezuelans.

In the months ahead, the agency plans to build on this progress by implementing premium processing for all petitions for immigrant workers and certain employment authorization applications for students and exchange visitors; establishing a permanent biometrics exemption for all applicants for change of nonimmigrant status and extension of nonimmigrant stay; and simplifying several common forms, including the applications for employment authorization, adjustment of status, and naturalization. Additionally, the report also shows the USCIS’s advanced humanitarian mission in the future, including online filing and notices, new rulemaking, and increased staffing and public engagement.

Based on Visa Bulletin

1: Consular officers are required to report to the Department of State documentarily qualified applicants for numerically limited visas; USCIS reports applicants for adjustment of status. The final action date for an oversubscribed category is the priority date of the first applicant who could not be reached within the numerical limits. If it becomes necessary during the monthly allocation process to retrogress a final action date, supplemental requests for numbers will be honored only if the priority date falls within the new final action date announced in this bulletin. If at any time an annual limit was reached, it would be necessary to immediately make the preference category “unavailable,” and no further requests for numbers would be honored.

2: Section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets an annual minimum family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000.

3: INA Section 203(e) provides that family-sponsored and employment-based preference visas be issued to eligible immigrants in the order in which a petition on behalf of each has been filed.

4: Section 203(a) of the INA prescribes preference classes for allotment of family-sponsored immigrant visas as follows:

First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: 114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents: 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;

B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents: 23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens: 65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.

A. Final Action Dates for Family-Sponsored Preference Cases

On the chart below, the listing of a date for any class indicates that the class is oversubscribed; “C” means current, i.e., numbers are authorized for issuance to all qualified applicants; and “U” means unauthorized, i.e., numbers are not authorized for issuance.

Family-Sponsored All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA-mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
F1 01DEC14 01DEC14 01DEC14 01APR01 01MAR12
F2A C C C C C
F2B 22SEP15 22SEP15 22SEP15 01JUN01 22OCT11
F3 22NOV08 22NOV08 22NOV08 01NOV97 08JUN02
F4 22MAR07 22MAR07 15SEP05 01AUG00 22AUG02
Green Card Backlog

B. Dates for Filing Family-Sponsored Visa Applications

The chart below reflects dates for filing Visa applications within a timeframe justifying immediate action in the application process. Applicants for immigrant visas who have a priority date earlier than the application date in the chart below may assemble and submit required documents to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, following receipt of notification from the National Visa Center containing detailed instructions. The application date for an oversubscribed category is the priority date of the first applicant who cannot submit documentation to the National Visa Center for an immigrant Visa. If a category is designated “current,” all applicants in the relevant category may file applications, regardless of priority date.

The “C” listing indicates that the category is current, and that applications may be filed regardless of the applicant’s priority date. The listing of a date for any category indicates that only applicants with a priority date that is earlier than the listed date may file their application.

Visit www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo for information on whether USCIS has determined that this chart can be used (in lieu of the chart in paragraph 4.A.) this month for filing applications for adjustment of status with USCIS.

Family-Sponsored All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA-mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
F1 08AUG16 08AUG16 08AUG16 01DEC02 22APR15
F2A C C C C C
F2B 01JAN17 01JAN17 01JAN17 01JAN02 01OCT13
F3 08NOV09 08NOV09 08NOV09 15JUN01 08NOV03
F4 15DEC07 15DEC07 22FEB06 01APR01 22APR04

5: Section 203(b) of the INA prescribes preference classes for allotment of Employment-based immigrant visas as follows:

Green Card Backlog

Employment-Based Preferences

First:  Priority Workers:  28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required for fourth and fifth preferences.

Second:  Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability:  28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required by first preference.

Third:  Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers:  28.6% of the worldwide level, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences, not more than 10,000 of which to “*Other Workers.”

Fourth:  Certain Special Immigrants:  7.1% of the worldwide level.

Fifth:  Employment Creation:  7.1% of the worldwide level, of which 32% are reserved as follows: 20% reserved for qualified immigrants who invest in a rural area; 10% reserved for qualified immigrants who invest in a high unemployment area; and 2% reserved for qualified immigrants who invest in infrastructure projects. The remaining 68% are unreserved and are allotted for all other qualified immigrants.

A. Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Preference Cases

On the chart below, the listing of a date for any class indicates that the class is oversubscribed (see paragraph 1); “C” means current, i.e., numbers are authorized for issuance to all qualified applicants; and “U” means unauthorized, i.e., numbers are not authorized for issuance. (NOTE: Numbers are authorized for issuance only for applicants whose priority date is earlier than the final action date listed below.)

Employment-based All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA – mainland EL SALVADOR GUATEMALA HONDURAS INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
1st C 01FEB22 C 01FEB22 C C
2nd 01NOV22 08JUN19 01NOV22 08OCT11 01NOV22 01NOV22
3rd C 01AUG18 C 15JUN12 C C
Other Workers 01JAN20 22DEC13 01JAN20 15JUN12 01JAN20 01JAN20
4th 22JUN22 22JUN22 15MAR18 22JUN22 15SEP20 22JUN22
Certain Religious Workers 22JUN22 22JUN22 15MAR18 22JUN22 15SEP20 22JUN22
5th Unreserved (including C5, T5, I5, R5) C 22MAR15 C 08NOV19 C C
5th Set Aside: Rural (20%) C C C C C C
5th Set Aside: High Unemployment (10%) C C C C C C
5th Set Aside: Infrastructure (2%) C C C C C C

B. Dates for Filing of Employment-Based Visa Applications

The chart below reflects dates for filing Visa applications within a timeframe justifying immediate action in the application process. Applicants for immigrant visas who have a priority date earlier than the application date in the chart may assemble and submit required documents to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, following receipt of notification from the National Visa Center containing detailed instructions. The application date for an oversubscribed category is the priority date of the first applicant who cannot submit documentation to the National Visa Center for an immigrant Visa. If a category is designated “current,” all applicants in the relevant category may file, regardless of priority date.

The “C” listing indicates that the category is current, and that applications may be filed regardless of the applicant’s priority date.

The listing of a date for any category indicates that only applicants with a priority date that is earlier than the listed date may file their application.

Employment-based All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA – mainland born EL SALVADOR GUATEMALA HONDURAS INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
1st C 01FEB22 C 01FEB22 C C
2nd 01NOV22 08JUN19 01NOV22 08OCT11 01NOV22 01NOV22
3rd C 01AUG18 C 15JUN12 C C
Other Workers 01JAN20 22DEC13 01JAN20 15JUN12 01JAN20 01JAN20
4th 22JUN22 22JUN22 15MAR18 22JUN22 15SEP20 22JUN22
Certain Religious Workers 22JUN22 22JUN22 15MAR18 22JUN22 15SEP20 22JUN22
5th Unreserved (including C5, T5, I5, R5) C 22MAR15 C 08NOV19 C C
5th Set Aside: Rural (20%) C C C C C C
5th Set Aside: High Unemployment (10%) C C C C C C
5th Set Aside: Infrastructure (2%) C C C C C C
Green Card Backlog

C. Diversity Immigrant (DV) Category for the Month of February

Section 203(c) of the INA provides up to 55,000 immigrant visas each fiscal year to permit additional immigration opportunities for persons from countries with low admissions during the previous five years. The NACARA stipulates that beginning with DV-99, and for as long as necessary, up to 5,000 of the 55,000 annually allocated diversity visas will be made available for use under the NACARA program. This will result in reduction of the DV-2023 annual limit to approximately 54,850. DV visas are divided among six geographic regions. No one country can receive more than 7% of the available diversity visas in any one year.

For February, immigrant numbers in the DV category are available to qualified DV-2023 applicants chargeable to all regions/eligible countries as follows. When an allocation cut-off number is shown, visas are available only for applicants with DV regional lottery rank numbers BELOW the specified allocation cut-off number:

Region All DV Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed Separately Exceptions
AFRICA 35,000 Except: Algeria 18,425 ; Egypt 16,150 ; Morocco 31,725
ASIA 15,500 Except: Iran 5,500 ; Nepal 7,000
EUROPE 15,000 Except: Russia 12,000 ; Uzbekistan 8,500
NORTH AMERICA (BAHAMAS) 5
OCEANIA 1,100
SOUTH AMERICA, and the CARIBBEAN 2,100

Entitlement to immigrant status in the DV category lasts only through the end of the fiscal (Visa) year for which the applicant is selected in the lottery. The year of entitlement for all applicants registered for the DV-2023 program ends as of September 30, 2023. DV visas may not be issued to DV-2023 applicants after that date. Similarly, spouses and children accompanying or following to join DV-2023 principals are only entitled to derivative DV status until September 30, 2023. DV Visa availability through the very end of FY-2023 cannot be taken for granted. Numbers could be exhausted prior to September 30.

D. The Diversity (Dv) Immigrant Category Rank Cut-Offs that Will Apply in March

For March, immigrant numbers in the DV category are available to qualified DV-2023 applicants chargeable to all regions/eligible countries as follows. When an allocation cut-off number is shown, visas are available only for applicants with DV regional lottery rank numbers BELOW the specified allocation cut-off number:

Region All DV Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed Separately Exceptions
AFRICA 45,000 Except: Algeria 18,425 ; Egypt 16,150 ; Morocco 31,725
ASIA 18,750 Except: Iran 5,500 ; Nepal 8,025
EUROPE 26,000 Except: Russia 14,660 ; Uzbekistan 8,500
NORTH AMERICA (BAHAMAS) 13
OCEANIA 1,100
SOUTH AMERICA, and the CARIBBEAN 2,100

E. Family-Sponsored Second Preference Visa Availability

Number use in the F2A category has remained steady throughout FY-2023 and it may be necessary to establish an F2A final action date as early as March to keep number use within the annual limit. This situation is being continually monitored and any necessary adjustments will be made accordingly.

F. Retrogression in the Worldwide Final Action and Application Filing Dates in the Employment Third Preference “Other Workers” (Ew) Category

Higher than expected number use in the Employment Third Preference “Other Workers” (EW) category, most notably amongst applicants with earlier priority dates, has necessitated further retrogressions in the worldwide final action date and application filing date for February to hold number use within the maximum allowed under the Fiscal Year 2023 annual limit. Except for China and India, all countries are subject to a final action date of 01JAN20 and an application filing date of 01FEB20.

G. Extension of Employment Fourth Preference Certain Religious Workers (Sr) Category

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, enacted on December 29, 2022, extended the Employment Fourth Preference Certain Religious Workers (SR) category until September 30, 2023. As indicated in item E of the January 2023 Visa Bulletin, the extension resulted in this category immediately becoming available, subject to the same final action dates as the other Employment Fourth Preference categories per applicable foreign state of chargeability.

work visa usa

Green Card Backlog Based on Boundless

Based on Boundless news Green Card Backlog Increases in January

The Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) saw a small increase in the immigrant Visa (IV) Green Card Backlog, from 377,953 pending cases last month to 386,787 cases in January — a 2.3% increase.

According to the NVC, the number of green card applicants whose cases were documentarily complete and therefore ready to be scheduled for an interview also increased this month by nearly 12,000, from 411,359 to 422,954. (A documentarily complete case is one in which all the required forms and documents have been submitted to and accepted by the NVC and that the case is ready for an interview to be scheduled.) Overall, the number of DC cases has been on a downward trend since July 2021.

January Green Card Backlog

The number of people scheduled for green card interviews increased by nearly 3,000 from December to January. The NVC scheduled 36,167 interviews in January, compared to 33,406 in December. Though this number is small, any reduction in the Green Card Backlog is welcome news.

Based on Cato Institute

Based on Cato Institute, only 45% of employment‐based green cards went to workers in 2021.

The immigration system of the United States favors family reunification even in the so‐called employment‐based (EB) green card categories. Under current interpretations of U.S. immigration law, family members of immigrant workers must use EB green cards. The American system isn’t unusual as Japan is the only OECD country with more immigrant workers than immigrant family members. Still, the difference is larger in the United States than in other countries. Instead of a separate green card category for the spouses and children of workers, those family members get a green card that would otherwise have gone to a skilled worker.

In 2021, 55% of EB green cards went to the family members of workers (Figure 1). The workers themselves received the other 45%. Those percentages are similar to 2020, with the percentage of green card beneficiaries who are workers being slightly down. Some of those family members who received EB green cards are workers, and many of them are highly skilled since skilled people tend to marry each other, so this isn’t a neat de facto division.

Family‐based Immigration

Family‐based immigration is important for social, economic, and ethical reasons. The Family‐based immigration is so essential that Congress should exempt family members from the EB green card cap altogether or, at least, create a new and separate green card category for themselves so that family members do not automatically reduce the number of workers by the same amount. If Congress exempted family members from the EB green card’s numerical cap or if there were a separate green card category for them, an additional 106,783 immigrant workers could have earned a green card in 2021 without increasing the numerical cap. That would have been a 123% increase without adjusting the cap number for that green card category.

Ninety‐two percent of those who received an EB green card in 2021, or 177,052, were already legally living in the United States (Figure 2). That’s up from 79% in 2019 but similar to 2020. Those who were already legally present and received their green cards were able to adjust their immigration status from another type of Visa, like an H‑1B or an F Visa, to an EB green card. Exempting those adjustments of status from the EB green card cap would boost the number of highly skilled workers who could have entered from abroad by a factor of 10.9, from a mere 16,247 up to the statutory cap.

Green Card Backlog

Green Card Cap

Exempting adjustment of status from the EB green card cap would increase the number of green cards for the EB‑1 and EB‑2 categories. EB‑1 green cards are for workers of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and some multinational firm managers and executives. EB‑2 green cards are for professional workers with advanced degrees and those with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. In 2021, 99% of immigrants who received an EB‑1 and 98.8% of those who received an EB‑2 were adjustments of status. In other words, 24,550 EB‐1s adjusted their status and 259 came from abroad, while 30,048 EB‐2s adjusted their status and only 365 came from abroad. Workers on the EB‑1 and the EB‑2 are the most skilled, so increasing the numbers available to them would have the biggest positive economic effect while also increasing the number of green cards in other categories through trickle‐down.

Going forward, exempting adjustments of status from the EB green card cap would also empty the Green Card Backlog imposed by the per‐country caps. Such a reform would especially benefit Indian workers on the H‑1B Visa by shortening their absurd wait times without increasing the wait time for immigrants from other countries. Exempting adjustments of status, rather than tinkering with the numerical cap or getting rid of the per‐country caps, is the best policy for two reasons. First, the system would be more open and flexible. Second, it would avoid the debate over which arbitrary number should be the new EB green card cap. Congress should eliminate the per‐country cap, but exempting adjustments of status would achieve the same goal of reducing wait times for Indian immigrants without increasing them for others.