150-Year Wait for Indian Immigrants With Advanced Degrees

April 29th, 2019 Kyle Behring

It is no secret that there is a huge amount of uncertainty regarding how long H1-B visa holders applying for U.S. permanent residence through the EB-2 category will have to wait to receive a green card. It is well documented that EB-2 applicants from India have a particularly long wait, with some estimates projecting more than a lifetime’s worth of waiting for Indian applicants with priority dates after 2018.

However, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has provided the number of applicants for each category, so we can derive estimates of the number of years it will take individuals applying today to receive their green cards through the EB-2 category.

Table 1 provides the data for the EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 categories. As of April 20, 2018, there were 632,219 pending application for visas filed by Indian immigrants, their spouses, and minor children. The shortest wait is for the highest skilled category, EB-1, which is for immigrants with “extraordinary ability.” EB-1 applicants from India are expected to wait approximately 6 years. EB-3 immigrants—the category for immigrants with bachelor’s degrees—are estimated to wait approximately 17 years. The largest backlog is for EB-2, the category for immigrants who have advanced degrees. Based on the current rates of visa issuance for the category, Indian EB-2 applicants applying today may have to wait 151 years to receive permanent resident status, nearly two lifetimes worth of waiting.


Table 1: Indian Immigrants Waiting for Green Cards (Approved Petitions for Alien Worker)*

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Annual Visas from U.S. Department of State; *As of April 20, 2018 with Priority Date On or After May 2018 Department of State Visa Bulletin; Note: Spouses & children are based on USCIS’s estimate of the ratio of primary to dependent applicants


There are two items to note when examining this data:

EB-2 Workers Will also Qualify under EB-3


As EB-2 workers typically also have bachelor’s degrees, those applicants can refile under the EB-3 category. Effectively, the wait times between the categories could begin to average out. At this point in time, most immigrants waiting in the EB-2 backlog will likely have not refiled through the EB-3 category because the wait times for applicants who are receiving their green cards right now are essentially the same for both categories (approximately 10 years). When factoring in the cost of refiling, the wait times tend to discourage “line jumping”. Despite this, averaging the two lines still yields a wait time of 58 years for both categories.

It is Possible that there are Duplicate Petitions Filed for the Same Individual by Different Companies


There is no good way to quantify how many of these cases exist, but these cases are unlikely to comprise a substantial portion of pending filings, assuming most employers would withdraw the petition once their employee leaves their organization. USCIS’s report also states that it excluded “revoked or reopened” petitions, so there was an attempt to reconcile this fact.

It should be noted that green card allocation is not based on the length of the backlog. Table 1 shows 69 percent of the backlog is in the EB-2 category, however it only received 13 percent of the green cards issued in 2017 across these three employment-based categories. One must consider that each of these categories is guaranteed a minimum of 40,040 green cards, so the allocation between categories does not adjust when one category has higher demand than the others. Additionally, EB-2 is currently subject to per-country limits which prevent Indian immigrants from receiving more than 7 percent of the total green cards issued in the category.

For employment-based green cards, the per-country limit only applies when the category is full allocated, meaning if there were additional green cards which were not applied for, Indian immigrants could receive above the per-country limit of 7 percent. For this reason, Indian immigrants received nearly 18 percent of the total green cards issued in the EB-3 category in 2017. The last time the per-country limits fully applied in the EB-3 category was in 2012. However, the demand in the EB-2 category from other countries is so high right now that EB-2 applicants from India only received approximately 7 percent of the total.

This inconsistency in the application of the per-country limit raises a third important caveat: if the per-country limits does not apply for EB-2 during some future years, Indian EB-2 applicants could receive their green cards before the next century. For example, if Indian EB-2 applicants received the same number of green cards as Indian EB-3 applicants did in 2017, they would only need to wait 65 years, rather than 151 years as projected in Table 1 based on the number of issuances in 2017. However, if the per-country limits apply for Indian EB-3 applicants after 2018, those applicants could end up having to wait more than 40 years, rather than 17 years.


How Behring Can Help

Although the EB-5 category is subject to similar per-country caps on the number of visas which can be issued and as a result also has a backlog for Indian nationals, the estimated wait time for EB-5 is only 5.7 years as of October 2018, a shorter wait than any of the estimated wait times for EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3. If you or someone you k would like to discuss EB-5 as an alternative path to permanent residence, click the following link to schedule a complimentary consultation with a member of team of EB-5 experts or click the image below:


Information in this article was adapted from the article titled “150-Year Wait for Indian Immigrants With Advanced Degrees” written by David Bier. The article originally appeared on on June 8th, 2018. Link: .

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