U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has been burning the midnight oil in recent months to ensure maximum usage of the 281,507 available green cards in the employment-based categories, of which EB-2 and EB-3 are the most common, for the federal fiscal year ending September 30, 2022. The usual number of employment-based green cards is 140,000 per fiscal year. Pandemic-related office closures and policies prevented using many available visa numbers in both family- and employment-based categories. For fiscal years 2021 and 2022, USCIS carried over unused family numbers to the next fiscal year and allocated them to employment-based categories.

That’s how there were 262,288 employment-based green cards available last year and 281,507 this year. Unfortunately, USCIS last year fell short in approving green cards and handed out only 195,507 for the year ending September 30, 2021. During a stakeholder event earlier this year, agency officials expressed remorse over not being to use all available numbers last year. In the employment-based green card quota, if the numbers are not used for the current fiscal year, they’re lost. Not wanting a repeat of last year, USCIS has taken an all-hands-on-deck approach to transfer files to field offices around the country to approve as many employment-based green cards as possible. The efforts have been tremendous…and welcomed by many new immigrants.

Based upon green card approvals this year and pending cases for next year, the current projection for fiscal year 2023 (October 1, 2022 – September 30, 2023) is that there will be approximately 200,000 employment-based green cards available. In its latest update, USCIS confirmed its commitment to work with the State Department to try to issue the maximum number of available green cards.

These good news reports often come with other news. The other news is that until Congress passes new legislation, or unless another pandemic shuts down government offices again, we’ll be back to the standard 140,000 amount on the books now. Many categories will “retrogress,” which means waiting longer for a green card. It will take several months for the State Department, which controls the monthly flow of green cards, to determine demand and update cutoff dates accordingly. USCIS expects to announcement sometime in September when it has issued all available green cards for this fiscal year.