Untenable Backlogs for Immigrant Visas

The Cato Institute has issued a report  highlighting the backlogs to immigrate as immediate members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents’ families, or through employment.  The report underscores the urgent need to reform the U.S. immigration system.

While the time it takes for the government to process residency petitions has lengthened, this June 18, 2019 report focuses on the increases in wait times for an available visa after a petition has been approved, due to numerical limits on visas and to caps on recipients by country.

The analysis found that wait times generally had more than doubled between 1991 and 2018.  In 2018 only 2% of beneficiaries of immigrant visa petitions saw no backlog, compared to 31% who did not have to wait in 1991.  In 2018, over 28% of those with approved petitions had to wait more than 10 years to reach the top of the wait list, with 41% waiting more than 5 years.  Certain categories, such as Mexican adult children or married Filipino offspring of  U.S. citizens, face wait times of more than 20 years before they will reach the top of the waitlist.   Citizens of India with masters or bachelors degrees  must wait far longer than a decade to get to the top of their employment based wait list.

Overall, 4.7 million prospective immigrants whose petitions have been approved are stuck in the backlogs waiting for their opportunity to take the final steps to become permanent residents of the U.S., with 83% of these in the family based categories, and 17% waiting to immigrate through employment.

As the report points out, wait times for those initiating the immigration process now, are likely to be substantially longer than backlogs already experienced by those for whom immigrant visa petitions were filed years ago.

To stem its growing workforce shortage caused by an aging population and low birthrates, the U.S. must overhaul its immigration laws so that legal immigrants don’t face years-long backlogs that keep families divided and employers uncertain about their ability to have the talent pool they need to remain competitive.

Read the report here.