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Recapture Unused Green Cards: Ajay Bhutoria’s Proposal For Immigration Reform


New Delhi: In a move that could benefit thousands of Indian-Americans waiting for their green cards, Ajay Bhutoria, US President Joe Biden’s Advisor for the Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Commission, presented a groundbreaking recommendation titled “Recapture Unused Green Cards and Prevent Future Green Card Waste”.

The proposal aims to tackle bureaucratic delays in the green card application process and provide relief to individuals facing lengthy backlogs.

Bhutoria, a prominent community leader, is leading the charge for immigration reform. His recommendation sheds light on the problem of unused green cards despite a considerable number of people waiting to receive them. While Congress grants the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to issue a specific number of family-based and employment-based immigrant visas each year, bureaucratic hurdles have resulted in a stockpile of unused green cards over time.

To address this issue, Bhutoria’s recommendation puts forth two key solutions:

Firstly, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State should recapture unused green cards for family and employment categories from 1992 to 2025. This includes reclaiming more than 230,000 unused employment-based green cards from 1992-2022 and processing a portion of these recaptured green cards annually, in addition to the standard limit of 140,000 green cards for the employment-based category.

Secondly, the State Department, in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security, should adopt a new policy to ensure that all green cards, as per the annual limit, remain available for eligible immigrants even if the agencies are unable to process the necessary paperwork in a given fiscal year. This policy should be retroactively applied to recapture green cards that remained unused before the new policy takes effect.

The rationale behind Bhutoria’s recommendation underscores the adverse impact of underutilized green cards on individuals, families, and the US economy. These unused green cards represent missed opportunities for the country and contribute to worsening backlogs, disproportionately affecting Indian American, Filipino American, and Chinese American families. Moreover, the absence of a green card limits the mobility and contributions of temporary workers on H-1B visas, while their children face the risk of aging out of immigration status when they reach 21 years of age.

Bhutoria’s recommendation aligns with proposals introduced in the 117th Congress that seek to recapture green cards that were previously unissued by USCIS due to administrative errors. By recapturing these unused green cards, billions of dollars could be injected into the economy, the backlog for families waiting for green cards could be reduced, and unnecessary bureaucratic barriers to legal immigration could be alleviated.

For the successful implementation of Bhutoria’s recommendation, it is essential for the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to collaborate and recapture unused green cards from 1992 to 2023 for the employment-based green card category. Additionally, adopting a new policy to ensure the issuance of all green cards authorized by Congress each year would stimulate economic activity and generate revenue for federal, state, and local governments.

Ajay Bhutoria’s unwavering commitment to immigration reform and his tireless advocacy for policy changes benefiting immigrant communities continue to have a significant impact. His recommendation to recapture unused green cards underscores the urgency of addressing bureaucratic delays and reducing backlogs, ultimately leading to a more efficient and inclusive immigration system.

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