Green Card Backlogs Are Long, Growing, and Inequitable, CATO Institute Says

July 10, 2019

By Immigration Group

This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Laura Danielson is an active member.

21th century time line, Year 2030

A new CATO Institute report says that immigration wait times have doubled since 1991 for applicants immigrating through both employment-based and family-sponsored “quota” categories, from an average of 2 years and 10 months to 5 years and 8 months. In 2018, more than 100,000 legal immigrants waited a decade or more to apply for permanent residence (green card) in 2018. Almost 5 million immigrants are waiting for their green cards now, the report says.

The report concludes that “Congress should eliminate the country quotas, exempt spouses and minor children from the overall quotas, and instead link quotas to population and economic growth.”

The report also notes that the quotas (numerical limits) on green cards for individual nationalities are causing longer waits from countries with the highest demand. Indians averaged the longest wait because of such limits—more than 8 years and 6 months. “It will take decades and—in some categories—a half century or more to process everyone else waiting now,” the report notes.