H-1B visa to green card: Wait time for Indian workers is up to 151 years

Many of the Indian tech employees in the United States who don’t leave the country after their H-1B visas expire get sponsored by companies offering permanent jobs — setting workers on the path to a green card granting permanent residence.

It turns out that the path can be very, very long.

o continue working after an H-1B runs out, foreign citizens may obtain an EB-1 visa for people with “extraordinary” ability, an EB-2 for people with advanced degrees or an EB-3 for bachelor’s degree holders.

As of mid-April, more than 300,000 Indian immigrants were on EB visas and waiting for green cards, according to a new report from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. Add in spouses and minor children, and the total number on hold exceeds 600,000 people.

The approximately 217,000 Indians on the EB-2 visa for holders of advanced degrees have little reason to hope they’ll ever get a green card, according to Cato’s research, based on federal government data.

“At current rates of visa issuances, they will have to wait 151 years for a green card,” Cato reported Friday.

“Obviously, unless the law changes, they will have died or left by that point.”

Because each visa category is allotted a minimum of 40,040 green cards, and the share is not adjusted according to demand, and because immigrants from any one country can’t receive more than 7 percent of green cards issued each year, the wait times vary, according to Cato.

“The shortest wait is for the highest-skilled category for EB-1 immigrants with ‘extraordinary ability,’ the think tank reported.

“The extraordinary immigrants from India will have to wait ‘only’ six years. EB-3 immigrants — those with bachelor’s degrees — will have to wait about 17 years.”

The 1965 legislation that allowed immigrants from any nation to receive up to 7 percent of the green cards issued each year means that Estonians, for example, have a much easier time getting permanent residence than Indians, according to Cato.

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