Padilla, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Increase Number of Green Cards and Eliminate Backlog

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, joined Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and four of their Senate colleagues in introducing the Resolving Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employees and Families (RELIEF) Act, legislation to eliminate the family and employment green card backlog by increasing the number of green cards available.

Almost four million future Americans are on the State Department’s immigrant visa waiting list, in addition to hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the U.S. who are also waiting for green cards. However, under current law, only 226,000 family green cards and 140,000 employment green cards are available annually. Children and spouses of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) count against these numbers, further restricting the number of available green cards.

“Immigrants are the backbone of our nation and our communities are stronger because of them,” said Senator Padilla. “For far too long, the backlog of green card applications has restricted access to the American dream for millions of people who are ready to contribute to our country. This bill is a commonsense step toward eliminating the green card backlog and providing relief for immigrant families.”

In addition to Padilla and Durbin, the RELIEF Act is cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

Along with eliminating the family and employment green card backlog within five years, this bill will help keep families together by classifying spouses and children of LPRs as immediate relatives and exempting derivative beneficiaries of employment-based petitions from annual green card limits, protect “aging out” children who qualify for LPR status based on a parent’s immigration petition, and lift per-country limitations.

Specifically, the RELIEF Act will:

  • Eliminate the family and employment green card backlog over five years in order of when applications were filed;
  • Classify spouses and children of Lawful Permeant Residents (LPRs) as immediate relatives and exempt derivative beneficiaries of employment-based petitions from yearly green card limits;
  • Protect “aging out” children who qualify for LPR status based of a parent’s petition;
  • Eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants;
  • Increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-sponsored immigrants to 15 percent;
  • Extend the “hold harmless” clause of the “Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act” that exempts immigrant visa petitions approved prior to enactment from the lifting of country caps to petitions approved for five years after enactment.

Padilla is a strong advocate for immigration reform. He is an original cosponsor of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, legislation to overhaul the American immigration system, restore fairness and humanity to the system, strengthen families, boost our economy, and open a pathway to citizenship for millions. He recently called on the Biden administration to Provide Temporary Protected Status for Ukrainians on a visa in the United States. Padilla has also pushed the State Department to address the international student visa backlog.


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