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Expand chart
Re-created from CATO Institute; Chart: Axios Visuals

Immigrants caught in backlogs to receive green cards could become U.S. permanent residents years — even decades — faster if a little-noticed provision in President Biden's $1.75 trillion "human" infrastructure bill becomes law.

Driving the news: The provision would recover more than 400,000 family and employment-based green cards previously authorized by Congress but unused since 1992, according to data confirmed by a Senate aide.

  • The cards allow permanent residency, though not citizenship right away.
  • “It is disappointing that the United States is unable to adequately process green card visas in a timely fashion,” Google spokesperson José Castañeda told Axios.
  • “We support the House provision to recapture green card visas and encourage the administration to process green card visas quicker."

By the numbers: Nearly 224,000 green cards allocated by Congress from 1992 to 2019 were never used, according to data from the CATO Institute, presented above.

  • An additional 200,000 went unused in 2020, largely due to coronavirus-related processing delays, according to data from the American Immigration Council.
  • Roughly 140,000 family-based and 62,000 employment-based visas expired Oct. 1.

Between the lines: Backlogs and caps on the number of green cards handed out to individual countries mean applicants often wait years in backlogs before receiving immigrant visas or green cards.

  • In 2005, Congress recaptured 50,000 green cards that went unused from 2001 to 2004.
  • The idea of additional green card recapture has gained some bipartisan consensus, amid a sea of disagreement on immigration reform, although it's also faced backlash from some Republican members.

Details: Under the current bill, some employment-based green card applicants would be able to pay a $5,000 fee to waive the annual and per-country limitations and become permanent residents.

  • So far, there have been no dissenting voices among Senate Democrats, but the measure in the current bill would still have to survive a "Byrd bath" — a formal test of the provisions' budgetary effects — in the coming weeks.
  • The Senate parliamentarian has already rejected other measures that would have included alternate citizenship pathways for undocumented immigrants.

Go deeper

Biden to add 20,000 guest-worker visas amid labor shortages

Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Biden administration will add 20,000 new slots to a seasonal, guest-worker program for the winter season, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday.

Why it matters: The U.S. labor force has struggled against the backdrop of rising demand, mental and physical health issues, and low wages, as businesses emerge from the economic damage incurred at the height of the pandemic.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

State Department orders evacuation of U.S. diplomats' families from Ukraine

From left, undersecretary for political affairs Victoria Nuland, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. chargés d'affaires in Ukraine Kristina Kvien during a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv. Photo: Yevhen Liubimov/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The State Department will begin evacuating families and nonessential staff from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv this week, according to a travel advisory published Sunday evening.

The latest: The United Kingdom's Foreign Office announced Monday it was also withdrawing some embassy staff and dependants from Ukraine's capital "in response to the growing threat from Russia," but added the British Embassy would remain open.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

U.K. PM orders inquiry into Muslim lawmaker's discrimination claim

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London, England, last week. Photo: Ian Vogler/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office announced Monday that he's ordered an inquiry into allegations from a Conservative Member of Parliament that she was fired from a ministerial job due to her Muslim faith.

Driving the news: Nusrat Ghani told the Sunday Times she was informed by a government whip that she was fired from her position as a junior transport minister in February 2020 after her "Muslimness was raised as an issue" and that her faith made colleagues feel "uncomfortable."