Indian skilled workers received just 10 percent of the available green cards in 2019—down from 14 percent in 2018—even as the share of petitions filed for Indians by employers increased from 50 percent to 53 percent. Because this disparity has persisted for years, the result is that nearly all (93 percent) of the immigrants waiting for green cards solely because of the low immigration limits are from India.
The reason for this disparity is that the law prevents green cards from being issued in proportion to the number of applicants from each country. Instead, the per‐country limits cap the number of green cards that immigrants from any single country can receive. Since Indians are more than half of the workers employers want to hire, they are effectively the only immigrants who suffer due to this constraint (Chinese are also at the limit, but they wait about the same length as they would without the limits).
All Indian green card applicants waiting in the backlog applied since 2009. Figure 1 below shows the share of petitions by employers for Indian skilled workers compared to the share of green cards issued to Indians from 2009 to 2019. As it shows, this inequity is about an all‐time high. In 2019 there was a 43 percentage point gap between the share of green cards for Indians and the share of petitions for them—up from 37 percent in 2018.
The share of green cards for Indian workers could fall even further, despite the massive backlog and demand. The per‐country limit provides that immigrants from any single birthplace cannot receive more than 7 percent of the green cards unless green cards would not otherwise be used. The only reason that Indians received 10 percent is because demand from the rest of the world was low enough to leave some unused. But demand from the rest of the world is increasing, shrinking the numbers for Indians.
The shrinking numbers will have devastating consequences for recent Indian applicants, effectively guaranteeing that they will not receive green cards at all. Many Indians would die waiting for green cards if they could stick it out, so most will leave the line before then. The House voted to repeal this exceptionally unjust system last year, but the Senate has yet to take up legislation to address it.