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 despite the text of the actual statute and other evidence that strongly suggests that this was not Congress’ intent. Instead of a separate green card category for spouses and children, they get a green card that would otherwise go to a worker.
In 2015, 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.
Employment-Based Green Cards by Recipient Types
Source: 2015 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Author’s calculations
If family members were exempted from the quota or there was a separate green card category for them, an additional 76,711 highly skilled immigrant workers could have earned a green card in 2015 without increasing the quota.