Tag: family

How to Double Employment-Based Green Cards

My colleague David Bier has a wonderful new blog post where he argues that the government has systematically under-issued employment-based (EB) green cards since 1992.  In essence, his argument is that Congress intended for the small number of EB green cards (140,000 annually) to only be issued to the workers themselves.  In practice, however, the government has issued the majority of them to the family members of the workers.  Bier argues that the practice of issuing EB green cards to family members has no statutory basis and that it runs contrary to Congress’ intent which was to exempt the spouses and minor children from the cap altogether.  This change would more than double the number of EB green cards available for workers.  Importantly, this error in interpretation can be corrected immediately by this or the next administration.  Do read the entire post for more details. 

Altering the way that EB green cards are counted would more than double the number of them issued to workers every year while actually making it easier for the families of skilled workers to follow their breadwinners. 

From 1992 to 2014, only 46 percent of all EB green cards were issued to workers while the rest were used by their family members.  During that time, approximately 1.7 million additional EB green cards for skilled workers could have been issued if the administrations had followed Bier’s correct interpretation and appropriately counted against the cap.  There is also the possibility that the government could “recapture” the EB green cards issued to family members in the past and properly issue them to skilled workers today.  

This is a reform that the administration could act on immediately and Bier has provided the support.           

Employment-Based Green Cards Are Mostly Used by Family Members

The United States’ immigration system favors family reunification – even in the so-called employment-based categories.  The family members of immigrant workers must use employment-based green cards to enter the United States.  Instead of a separate green card category for spouses and children, they get a green card that would otherwise go to a worker. 

In 2014, 56 percent of all supposed employment-based green cards went to the family members of workers (Chart 1).  The other 44 percent went to the workers themselves.  Some of those family members are workers, but they should have a separate green card category or be exempted from the employment green card quota altogether. 

Chart 1

Employment Based Green Cards by Recipient Types

 

Source: 2014 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Author’s Calculations