There is way for immigrants awaiting permanent US residency to avoid the excruciating delay – sometimes of up to 150 years.

The otherwise cumbersome process can be hastened by simply eliminating country quotas, according to a report published on December 21, 2018, by the Congressional Research Service, an independent research wing of the US Congress.

Indians face the worst backlog when it comes to getting a green card, thanks to a 7%-per-country cap on allocations each year.

Of the 395,025 approved employment-based immigrant petitions pending as of April 20, 2018, Indian nationals comprise 306,601. That means nearly 80% of those waiting for green cards under an employment-based preference category are Indians, data from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services shows.

There is a way to cut down Indians’ decades-long wait for green cards in the USData: USCIS
There is a way to cut down Indians’ decades-long wait for green cards in the USData: USCIS

This delay in getting permanent residency has for years subjected families to uncertainty and instability, often even tearing them apart.

Lifting the cap

Doing away with the country-cap would not only help fast-track green card allocations but it would also help US-based employers hire the most suitable foreign talent. “…eliminating the per-country ceiling would increase the flow of high-skilled immigrants from countries such as India and China, who are often employed in the US technology sector, without increasing the total annual admission of employment-based LPRs [Legal Permanent Residency],” Congressional Research Service said.

Workers from abroad are already crucial to fixing the skills crunch plaguing Silicon Valley. While less than 1% of all US jobs go to foreign workers, more than 12% of tech jobs do. But currently, the quota system “discriminates against some foreign workers based on their country of origin, a characteristic they contend has little bearing on workers’ labor market contributions,” William A Kandel, Congressional Research Services immigration policy analyst, wrote.

With no cap, “a handful of countries could conceivably dominate employment-based immigration, possibly benefitting certain industries that employ foreign workers from those countries, at the expense of foreign workers from other countries and other industries that might employ them,” Kandel added.

In the absence of a level playing field that rewards merit above all else, skilled workers “may decide to start their careers and conduct entrepreneurial activities in other countries where the equivalent of LPR status is more quickly obtained,” the report warned. Already, Indian entrepreneurs and tech workers are turning to Canada over the US. In fact, even college students from the country have developed a liking for the Great White North as opposed to blindly chasing the American dream at US universities.

However, the Trump administration is refraining from taking this step, citing diversity concerns. “It (removing the cap) would fix the problem more or less for people from India. Their wait times would go down,” United States Citizenship and Immigration Services director Lee Francis Cissna said on August 15. “But as a result, most of the flow of immigrants who come through employment visas would be from India almost exclusively for many years…That’s an issue.”

Detractors also point to unfair practices under the H-1B visa programme, which allows specialty workers to temporarily live and work in the US for up to six years, to drive their point home. “Some observers criticise the H-1B visa as exploitative of foreign workers, mostly from India, because once sponsored for employment-based LPR status, workers are unable to change employers, leaving them vulnerable to exploitative practices,” the report said. Indians comprise three-fourths of all H-1B visa recipients.

This article first appeared on Quartz.