Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Thousands of green cards are about to go to waste, leaving Google, Microsoft and other tech companies fuming — and pushing the Biden administration to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Why it matters: Tech workers have waited years for green cards that will grant them permanent legal status in the U.S. — but because of pandemic-related processing delays, they will have to wait even longer.

How it works: The U.S. makes a certain number of family-based and employment-based green cards available each fiscal year.

  • 260,000 employment visas were available this year, rather than the typical 140,000, thanks to a pandemic-related drop in applications for family-based visas in 2020. Unused family cards from one year are added to the next year's count of employment cards.

The catch: Processing those extra applications has gone slowly. An administration official this summer warned of a 100,000-application backlog that would not be filled by the Sept. 30 fiscal year end. Extra green cards that haven't been granted in one year don't carry over to the next.

What's happening: Google and Microsoft are among the companies that have been urging federal officials to find a way to save the roughly 80,000 remaining employment-based green cards set to expire Sept. 30.

  • Google says only 13% of its candidate applications filed since last October have been approved.
  • "The idea that we will leave tens of thousands of these applications unfilled at a time when businesses around the country are having a hard time finding qualified workers seems illogical," Google senior vice president of global affairs  Kent Walker told Axios. "So we're really trying to encourage people to come together to fix this issue."

What they're saying: Google and Microsoft say they have thousands of employees and their families awaiting green cards.

  • "We have congressionally authorized numbers available right now that can help a significant number of people trapped in the backlog move to permanent residence," Jack Chen, associate general counsel at Microsoft, told Axios. "But without a fix, those numbers go into the shredder at the end of the month. It’s a huge missed opportunity."

Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook last week wrote to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on behalf of the Business Roundtable to press the issue.

  • Cook, who chairs the Business Roundtable's immigration committee, said officials should eliminate unnecessary document requests and conduct communications by phone or email to speed up processing.
  • "The backlogs have created uncertainty for major employers and caused anxiety for our employees and their families who have, in some cases, waited decades to receive permanent residence status," Cook wrote in the letter.

What's at stake: The most pressing issue is for parents awaiting green cards, because their children lose legal status when they turn 21.

  • "If these numbers aren't used, it's the thousands of kids, like my son, who are going to lose out," Sujit Koduru, a principal service engineering manager at Microsoft, said in a statement for Axios.

The intrigue: The House Judiciary Committee last week approved a provision that would recapture both family and employment based green cards that were not used between 1992 and 2021 as part of its reconciliation proposals.

  • "It's bad for the U.S. economy to let congressionally-authorized immigrant visas go to waste, especially when demand for these visas is so high," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who leads the House immigration subcommittee. 
  • “Congress and the Biden Administration should work together to prevent bureaucratic processing delays, decrease existing visa backlogs, and ensure that unused visas are recaptured and available for use.”

Yes, but: The Senate parliamentarian rejected other immigration policy changes in the reconciliation package earlier this week, although she did not review this specific proposal.

What's next: It's not possible for immigration officials to get through the backlog by the end of the month.

  • Microsoft and Google have urged U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to reinterpret its authority to preserve extra green cards beyond the fiscal year.
  • A USCIS official told Axios they waived fingerprint requirements for applicants whose biometrics they already had and made other changes to expedite processing.
  • The agency is exploring all legal and operational options to maximize visa usage, the official said.

The big picture: Attracting the world's top talent helps American companies innovate, Cato Institute research fellow David Bier told Axios, adding that these workers are among the top 10% of U.S. workers in terms of wages.

  • "They would be contributing to a far greater extent if they had green cards — starting businesses, innovating in other ways, but their status precludes them from being able to do that," Bier said. "I would argue that if these green cards are wasted and nothing is done about it, we are going to see an exodus of high-skilled immigrants from this country to other countries."

The bottom line: "There are a lot of hard things about immigration," Chen told Axios. "This should not be one of them. None of these green card numbers should have to be wasted or expire at the end of the fiscal year."

Go deeper

Big Tech's donation dollars

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Tech's leading companies — like the rest of corporate America — responded to the murder of George Floyd by police in 2020 in part by pledging to give big to racial justice groups.

  • Our analysis of these companies found that, by and large, Big Tech paid up.
Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.

Manchin, Schumer huddle with Biden in Delaware to discuss spending bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (L) and Sen. Joe Manchin (R) at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 13, 2014. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will meet with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday morning in Delaware as Democrats look to reach an agreement on the massive spending measure.

Driving the news: Democrats are still negotiating what to keep in the bill and how to pay for it, with Biden saying on Thursday that the party does not have the votes to raise the corporate tax rate.