Bill Analysis: Eliminating Backlogs Act of 2023

Bill Analysis: Eliminating Backlogs Act of 2023

By Arturo Castellanos-Canales 

The Eliminating Backlogs Act of 2023, or H.R. 1535, is a bipartisan bill that would recapture the unused employment-based green cards accumulated since 1992. In addition, the bill would exempt these recaptured green cards from the 7% per-country cap. The bill was introduced by Representative Larry Bucshon (R-Indiana) on March 10, 2023, and co-sponsored by Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois).

The Eliminating Backlogs Act would:

  • recapture the unused employment-based green cards accumulated over the past three decades, going back to 1992 when the current green card allotment system took effect.
  • exempt the recaptured green cards from the 7% per-country limitation.


Every year, the U.S. sets aside only 140,000 employment-based green cards for skilled, unskilled, and professional workers from all around the world. In addition to the numerical limit, Congress has placed a limit on the maximum number of green cards that can be allocated to nationals of a particular country. Under existing federal law, individuals from any one country cannot be issued more than 7% of the total number of green cards each year. In practice, the existence of these per-country caps means that individuals from countries with high numbers of green card applicants, such as India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines, face backlogs lasting years or even decades.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic, travel bans, and various administrative complications have led to tens of thousands of green cards going unused in recent years. Unused green cards are those that have been left unissued due to bureaucratic delays and slow USCIS processing. As a consequence of numerical limits, per-country caps, and administrative delays, the employment-based green card backlog reached 1.6 million by the end of Fiscal Year 2022.

This backlog is particularly problematic at a time when the United States is facing an acute labor shortage. For almost two years, job vacancies in the country have consistently surpassed 10 million, while the number of hires averages only 6 million every month. In other words, there are only six available workers for every ten job openings in the United States. Consequently, inflation has surged, companies report lost opportunities, and supply chains across economic sectors are severely affected.


The Eliminating Backlogs Act of 2023 would tackle the green card backlog and alleviate the pressing labor shortages in the United States. In addition, some individuals waiting in lengthy backlogs from “capped-out” high immigration countries like India, China, the Philippines, and Mexico, would become immediately eligible for green cards. As a consequence, the Eliminating Backlogs Act of 2023 is a bill that would help America reach its full economic potential and would be instrumental in reuniting families who have been separated for too long due to backlogs.

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