The US vows to expand their Green Card Programme

Published 2022-01-24 14:04:23
Credit Pixabay

The Biden government has made sweeping changes to many aspects of immigration since coming into office. The US government’s immigration bill should increase annual green card numbers by 35%.

The current US government is implementing many reforms to change the legislation adopted by the previous administration. Chief among them is the Immigration Bill. Immigration under the previous government was severely curtailed in an alleged attempt to protect American jobs for US citizens.

According to a new analysis, the number of immigrants estimated to obtain a “green card“  should rise by nearly 375,500 each year if the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is enacted, totaling about 1.5 million cards every year. This is about 400K more than the average over the past few years.

Legalizing immigrants and catching up on green cards

Late last year the Democrats structured their spending bill to address the legal protection of certain immigrants and so-called DREAMers (immigrant youths who qualify for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors - DREAM Act) that suddenly found themselves unwelcome and without a home in the US under the previous government.

Under the Trump administration the number of green cards issued in the period of January to March of 2020 was drastically reduced from 240K to a paltry 79K by the months of April to June 2020. In the previous year for the same fiscal period the number of green cards issued was approximately 266K. This created a massive backlog in the green card programme.

The Democrats have a $1.85 trillion social-spending and climate package which has also provision for addressing unused green cards and hastening the process along to catch up with the normal target.

Thus, Biden’s reforms hope to increase the numbers of new immigrants into the country but also issuing a path to legal status to the millions of undocumented imimigrants who are already residing in the US. The Build Back Better Act, which was ratified in November last year,  contains immigration considerations that could potentially prevent the deportation of about seven million unauthorised immigrants and issue them with work permits and other official documentation that will allow them to live in the US.

The proposed pathway to legal citizenship is to design an eight-year process for the almost 10.5 million unauthorised immigrants. Additionally, they hope to amend the current family-based immigration scheme, review the employment-based visa rules and raise the quantity of diversity visas.

Crucial changes made to the US immigration programmes

Family-sponsored immigration

The majority of immigrants receive green cards because of family ties to citizens. Family sponsorship accounted for almost 710K green cards in 2019. This type of immigration is also called “chain migration” by some.

Family sponsorship is applicable in cases where the applicant already has a close relative like a parent, child, sibling or spouse who is a citizen or has a green card. This method is the most common type immigration and makes up the majority of all green cards issued.

However, there are a large number of applicants from some countries and those have to wait longer to qualify due to the 7% limit to the number of green cards issued per country annually.

One way to increase the number of family-based green cards issued is by raising the 7% cap imposed on a country’s total number of applicants.  


Biden has increased the limit on the number of refugees allowed into the US. Last year was a record low since the 1980 Refugee Act was passed, with only 11,411 refugees entering the US and this was probably due to the pandemic.

In addition to the pandemic the low numbers of refugees may also be due to Trump policies introduced before the pandemic which limited admissions in 2020 at 18K.

Work-based green cards

Employment based green cards are limited to 140K per year. However, the new administration’s proposal is planning on increasing this cap.

The proposal is also addressing the large number of unused work-based green cards from previous years and to allow spouses and dependents to get green cards without affecting the annual cap. The government hopes that this measure will help eliminate the large backlog of work visa applicants.

Diversity visas

This category includes the 50K green cards issued through the US diversity visa program, which is also known as the visa lottery. This programme was launched in 1995 and has since granted over one million immigrants green cards with the hope of diversifying the US immigrant population. The diversity visa programme is mostly aimed at underrepresented countries. Countries with the most visa applicants are ineligible, such as Mexico, China, Canada and India.

Trump wanted to totally eliminate this programme whereas Biden is hoping to increase the annual number of diversity visas issued to 80K.

H-1B visas

This type of visa made up about 20% of all temporary visas in 2019. This visa is issued to highly skilled immigrants but it expires after six years.

However, between the effects of the pandemic and the Trump administration policies there was a significant drop in the approval of the H-1B visa to green card creating a huge backlog of about 1.2 million of permits available. The new administration has changed legislation to improve the process of issuing temporary visas and green cards, particularly under pressure from technology companies that want to retain their foreign workers on a sustainable basis.

Temporary permissions

These are issued to immigrants who arrive in the US under unusual circumstances. There are only very few of these issued and having a temporary permission doesn't give you a path to citizenship. The two types are:

  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): DACA had about 636K unauthorised immigrants by the end of 2020. It afforded holders temporary work permits and protection from deportation. This programme was meant to end under Trump but has since survived and DACA holders, dubbed in the media as DREAMers (see above), will have a clear path to permanent citizenship under the new immigration bill.
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS): TPS grants a reprieve from deportation for a limited period for immigrants from certain countries. Holders of this permit are able to work and live in the US. Immigrants who have fled their countries because of war, natural disasters or other unique conditions are able to apply for it. Currently 700K immigrants from 12 countries hold this permit. Venezuela and Myanmar are the latest countries added to the list after the new administration took office. It will be possible under the new immigration bill that some eligible TPS holders can apply for green cards immediately and after three years apply for citizenship. The Trump administration was actively trying to end this programme.

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Author: KashGo
Expat Mum in the Desert and content writer for

For other discussions, advice, question, point of view, get together, etc...: please use the forum.

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