U.S. immigration basics: how many green cards are given each year? 

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The number of green cards 


Immigrants face an annual cap on the number of green cards. 


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How many immigrants are admitted to the United States every year? By statute, Congress has placed a limit on the number of foreign-born individuals who are admitted to the United States annually as family-based or employment-based immigrants or as refugees.

Family-based immigration is limited by statute to 480,000 persons per year. Family-based immigration is governed by a formula that imposes a cap on every family-based immigration category, with the exception of "immediate relatives" (spouses, minor unmarried children, and parents of U.S. citizens). 

The formula allows unused employment-based immigration visas in one year to be dedicated to family-based immigration the following year, and unused family-based immigration visas in one year to be added to the cap the next year. This formula means that there are slight variations from year to year in family-based immigration. Because of the numerical cap, there are long waiting periods to obtain a visa in most of the family-based immigrant categories.

There is no numerical cap on the number of immediate relatives (spouses, minor unmarried children and parents of U.S. citizens) admitted annually to the U.S. as immigrants. However, the number of immediate relatives are subtracted from the 480,000 cap on family-based immigration to determine the number of other family-based immigrants to be admitted in the following year (with a floor of 226,000).

Employment-based immigration is limited by statute to 140,000 persons per year. In most cases, before the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will issue an employment-based immigrant visa to a foreign-born individual, the employer first must obtain a "labor certification" from the U.S. Department of Labor confirming that there are an insufficient number of U.S. workers able, qualified and willing to perform the work for which the foreign-born individual is being hired.

The Department of Labor also must confirm that employment of the foreign-born individual will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers. The labor certification process takes an average of 2 years to complete.

The United States accepts only a limited number of refugees from around the world each year. This number is determined every year by the President in consultation with Congress. The total number of annual "refugee slots" are divided among different regions of the world. In fiscal year 1998, 78,000 refugees were permitted to come to the U.S.

The above  information is provided courtesy of AILA: American Immigration Lawyers Association.  


 

 

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