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How Many People Are on the Waiting List to Immigrate to the United States?

In 2022, the best way to describe the immigration waiting list in the United States is to say that it’s extremely long and getting longer. When they look at reports compiled by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, San Diego residents can get an idea about the gargantuan backlog the agency is currently dealing with—4.1 million green card requests as of November 2021. However, if we look at the bigger picture, which includes family-based applications for visas, that backlog is greater than nine million. According to, an American political organization that advocates for the reunification of immigrant families, some unmarried adult children of green card holders have been waiting for visas since 2001.

Processing Times

There’s a clear disconnect between the historical average processing times published by USCIS and the reported backlogs. If we look at the average waiting times to process Form I-526, which is a petition filed by investors and entrepreneurs under the EB-5 visa program, it used to take 17 months in 2017 and 37 months in 2022. However, foreigners who have filed Form I-485 based on their family relationships with American citizens and green card holders are forced to wait far longer than that, but USCIS estimates it should take less than a year.

High Demand

It’s important to remember USCIS waiting lists form as a result of high demand for green cards, for which there are limits established by Congress. This demand tends to increase along with population growth, although there are times when it slows down. Such was the case following the peak of the global financial crisis in 2008. While Congress can alleviate these waiting lists by means of increasing visa and green card limits, there’s still the matter of USCIS not being able to handle the massive volume of applications and petitions.

Staffing Issues

While the human and technical resources allocated to USCIS should be sufficient to avoid major backlogs, it should be noted that case adjudicators are often pulled in different directions. For example, staff members assigned to review I-485 packets may suddenly be diverted to work on special projects because of executive orders the White House has issued. Over the last decade or so, lawmakers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives have been trying to alleviate these backlogs through legislative proposals, and the most recent is called the Resolving Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employees and Families (RELIEF) Act, which calls for expedited processing of family-based green card applications currently pending resolution.

When they need assistance with any issues relating to immigration services in San Diego, immigrants should reach out to the experienced San Diego immigration attorneys at KS Visa Law. From green cards to family immigration to naturalization, we can address all your immigration-related needs. Call us today at 858-874-0711 to schedule an appointment.

May 2024