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Over 200,000 Green Cards wasted, 1.48 million pending EAD applications– Immigration Update

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

This our first Immigration Update. The idea with these updates is to share verified and wholesome information to our readers and followers who aren’t very up to date with the complex immigration system here in the US. Please do read it and share your feedback with us. We’d love to improve on our offering as we grow together.

Note: Also, we are not Immigration Lawyers and any advice we give is purely based on our experience and one should always speak to an immigration attorney when in doubt.

With that, here’s the Immigration Update.

USCIS Case Completion Data & Processing Times
USCIS Case Completion Data

USICS releases processing and case completion Data for FY 2021

USCIS recently released processing and case completion data on all of its forms. This includes data on Family and employee based Green Cards, Fiancé Visa, Employment Authorization Permits and Naturalization applications received for the fiscal year 2021. This data set contains new statistics for the fourth quarter of 2021, as well as the full FY2021, which for USCIS ran from October 2020 through September 2021.

For those interested in looking at this data, here it is

Total Applications, Approval & Denial Rates

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the number of applications received by the USCIS saw an increase this year.

The first quarter of last year saw the lowest number of forms USCIS received all year — 1.73 million. Post that, every quarter the agency received 2.18 million, 2.58 million, and 2.34 million, to end the year with 8,837,718 forms received and 6,138,799 Forms approved.

That brought their overall approval rate for the year to ~70% which is actually a drop from 85% last year.

Employment Authorization – EAD

Now, we know that this is one of the biggest pain points of our followers. Therefore, we’ll try to provide as much data and information on this as possible.

As we all know, there’s already a huge backlog when it comes to EAD applications with wait times at some centers having increased to almost a year or more. While the previous rule of Biometrics was done away with in May last year, it hasn’t made a whole lot of a difference to

their processing times.

A recent rule of auto extension of work permit for certain eligible applicants may have come as a relief to us but the organization still have to work on those applications eventually and it ads on to their case load.

With this background, let’s dive into the numbers.

The number of EAD applications received by USCIS surged from 1.97 million in FY2020 to 2.61 million at the end of FY2021.

This surge peaked during the third quarter, running headlong into the backlog of pending EAD applications — 648,985 at the end of FY2020 — to result in a staggering backlog of 1.48 million pending applications.

So, here it is, approximately 1.5 million EAD applications are still pending. While the Congress has passed the rule to provide Premium processing for EAD applications, the rule is still not implemented by the USCIS. If that happens, it may just come as a relief for a lot of people who may lose or have lost their jobs because of long processing times.

If you've been waiting for your EAD extension, it may be a good idea to apply for an Expedite Request. Here's a Guide that may help you with that process

For those applying for their Work Permit for the first time - Here's are a couple of Guides for you to get started:

Family based & Employment Based Green Cards

First some background in terms of how Green Cards are allotted each year.

The government can issue up to 675,000 green cards each year. Of this number, 480,000 visas are reserved for “family preference” immigrants; 140,000 for employment-based immigrants; and 55,000 for Diversity Visa lottery winners. Any family-based green cards that are unused at the end of the fiscal year are added to the next year’s available employment-based green cards.

So, what happened in the last 2 years?

Since the Trump administration had implemented a ban in April 2020 over a lot of Immigrant Visas, a total of 122000 family based green cards went unused and were added to the 2021 cap on Employment based visas which raise the available number to 262000.

Almost 150,000 family based green cards and as many as 80,000 employment based green cards had gone unused by September 30, which was the last day of the 2021 fiscal year.

The 150,000 unused family-preference visas have been added to the fiscal year 2022 cap on employment-based visas, bringing the total to 290,000. But the unused 80K employment-based visas from fiscal year 2021 will remain lost without Congressional action. The Biden administration is trying to recapture them through its ‘Build Back Better’ bill but it has been stuck for the past few months.

At close of FY2021, there were more than 9 million green card applicants stuck in the backlog—about 7.5 million on the family-based side and 1.6 million on the employment-based side.

A major reason the backlogs are so large is the per-country cap on immigration. Under current immigration law, the number of immigrants from any one country cannot be greater than 7% of the total number of immigrants who come to the United States in a single year. This arbitrary cap doesn’t account for the strong social and economic relationships that the United States has with certain countries.

It can’t be said accurately how many, but it may be safe to assume that the bulk of 1.6 million stuck in the Employment based green card backlog are Indian and Chinese nationals.

So, what do these numbers mean?

According to USCIS, the complexity of their work, length of forms, new statutory and policy decisions, and increased security checks” outpaced USCIS’ capability to adjudicate and complete applications within reasonable processing timeframes after the 2016 presidential election. By the beginning of FY2021, the backlog had exploded to 6,380,926, going on to top 8 million by the end of FY2021.

What is the impact on people?

The increase in number of applications and longer processing times has had a huge impact on the lives of immigrants.

People waiting for their EADs can lose their jobs, conditional permanent residents may struggle to prove their work authorization or to travel freely until their I-751s are approved, millions of Indian H-1B holders live in constant anxiety since their EB green cards have a long wait time and companies struggle to staff offices and projects given the uncertainty of skyrocketing processing times — the impact on immigrants, their families, and the U.S. as a whole is enormous.


USCIS has attempted to reduce their processing times by removing an extra barrier of Biometrics and reusing about 2.5 million since March 2020. They have also extended its staffing and overtime at its lockbox facilities and has a better financial footing than it had in 2020.

While all this hasn’t helped reduce the backlogs and processing times, us Immigrants can only wait for a better time.

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