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Clearing Green Card Backlogs Would Unlock Trillions in GDP Gains

Washington, DC – A new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, Green Light to Growth: Estimating the Economic Benefits of Clearing Green Card Backlogs, sheds light on the economic potential of clearing employment and family-based green card backlogs in the United States.  

The report estimates the economic benefit of clearing today’s current backlog of about 7.6 million individuals to be $3.9 trillion in GDP gains over the next 10 years. The projected benefits make the case for increasing green card limits and allocating more resources for visa processing. 

Millions of individuals find themselves trapped in green card backlogs, enduring lengthy waits to attain lawful permanent resident status in the United States. Some may even die before receiving the green card for which they are already approved.  

“Our analysis underscores the significant human and economic costs associated with these backlogs. People are waiting for decades to receive their green cards,” said Jack Malde, BPC senior policy analyst. “And this is happening as workforce shortages persist and critical positions in fields like health care go unfilled. Increasing green card limits and visa processing resources would help fill these gaps, strengthening the U.S. economy, international competitiveness, and national security.”  

While stuck in the backlog, people already in the U.S. face restrictions on the jobs they can work, limiting productivity, and those who are approved for green cards but remain outside of the U.S. due to per-country caps are prevented from contributing their knowledge and skills. As the U.S. population ages and birth rates decline, increased immigration will be key to ensuring an adequate supply of workers.  

Absent congressional action, backlogs will continue to grow—as they have for decades—and this readily available supply of talent will remain untapped.  

Jack Malde is available for comment. 

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