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Green Card Approvals to Hit New Low

Approval rates for permanent residency in the U.S. are likely to sink to an all-time low this year, according to an analysis of federal agency data conducted by the Cato Institute.

What’s going on: “Only about 3 percent of the people who have submitted green card applications will receive permanent status in the United States in fiscal year (FY) 2024,” the think tank reports.

  • “At the start of this fiscal year, approximately 34.7 million applications were pending—up from about 10 million in 1996. Legal immigration caps plus uncapped categories permit only about 1.1 million green cards for FY 2024, meaning that 97 percent of green card applicants will not receive one this year.”
  • In 2023, just 3.8% of green card applicants secured approval.

Employment-based green cards: While permanent residency is granted more frequently for employment-based applications, its approval rate is still very low.

  • Only 8% of the 1.8 million pending employment-based green card applications are expected to get approval this fiscal year.
  • The backlog is growing; in 2018 it was 1.2 million. “[R]equests have consistently far outstripped supply” for these green cards.

Why it’s important: “We have more than 600,000 job openings in manufacturing alone,” said NAM Senior Director of Technology Policy Franck Journoud.

  • “Filling 8% of that employment-based green card shortfall would close just 144,000 job openings—hardly a meaningful difference to the industry or the economy as a whole. The data in this study are powerful evidence of the need to reform our immigration system, which is desperately out of sync with employers’ needs.”
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