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U.S. Immigration by the Numbers

BY Joe Jian Zhou, Attorney at Law [ April 23, 2010 at 18:47:36 ]

On April 4th, 2010 the Department of Homeland Security released its Immigration Statistics for Fiscal Year 2009, starting October 1st 2008 and ending October 1st 2009. For those involved in the immigration process, a by-the-numbers look at this year’s release is useful in determining how to navigate the immigration system.

DHS reports that in 2009, a total of 1,130,818 persons obtained legal permanent resident status, a 2.1% increase over the previous year. Of this figure, 59%, totaling 667,776 applicants, received LPR status via adjustment of status as compared to 463,042 immigrants who obtained Legal Permanent Resident Status through the consular process. In keeping with this trend, the growth in the amount of immigrants obtaining Legal Permanent Resident status through adjustment of status outpaced the overall growth of immigrants, increasing by 4.2%. This increase was not due to a rise in applications by immigrants living in the U.S., but rather to faster USCIS approval time for adjustment of status.

In 2009, 144,034 aliens received Legal Permanent Resident Status, a 13% decline from the previous year. However, the distribution of green cards across employment-based preference categories was proportional to 2008 numbers.

The EB-1 priority worker category, which includes aliens with extraordinary ability (EB-1A), outstanding professors or researchers (EB-1B), and multinational executives or managers (EB-1C), constituted 28% of employment-based green card awards. 40,924 green cards were apportioned to the EB-1 category, of which 16,742 were principals and the rest members of their family (spouse and unmarried children under 21). The majority of EB-1 LPR adjustments, around 30,000 were awarded to the EB-1A and EB-1B categories. The EB-1 category experienced the least significant shift among all employment-based preference categories, increasing by 1900 from the 2008 figure.

Roughly 45,552 green cards were awarded to professionals with advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability (EB-2), including immigrants under National Interest Waiver (NIW). This represents a steep drop from the 70,000 Legal Permanent Resident statuses granted in 2008. Of the EB-2 green cards granted in 2009, 22,000 were awarded to principals. The EB-2 category accounted for 32% of all Legal Permanent Resident recipients in employment-based preference categories.

The EB-3 category, comprising workers, professionals and unskilled workers, remained largely unchanged from the previous year, accounting for 28% of employment-based green card awards. In total, 40,398 immigrants in the EB-3 category were awarded Legal Permanent Resident status.

The number of green cards awarded to special immigrants in the EB-4 category increased significantly from 9,500 in 2008 to 13,400 in 2009, with a majority of those green cards awarded to Ministers already living in the U.S.

The 2009 results for the EB-5 investor and employment creation category proved to be a surprise, increasing by a large amount over the 2008 figure. Cumulatively, the number of persons who received Legal Permanent Resident Status in the EB-5 category nearly tripled from 1,360 in 2008 to 3,688 in 2009.

Outside of employment-based preference immigration, there were some significant changes in the category of family-sponsored immigration. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, who are exempt from any limitations, accounted for 535,500 of the total persons who obtained Legal Permanent Resident status, a 47,000 rise from 2008. In the family-sponsored preference category, the second of two preference-based immigration categories, 211,859 green cards were awarded, a 7% dip from the 227,761 immigrants admitted under the category in 2008.

The refugee and asylee category represented a surprisingly high number of persons granted Legal Permanent Resident status, totaling 177,368. Refugees comprised the majority of this category with 118,836 refugees receiving green cards and 58,532 aliens receiving green cards through the asylum category in 2009. While the refugee and asylee category totaled 177,368 persons in 2008, the asylee category accounted for 76,000 of those immigrants, indicating a considerable shift in U.S. policy towards asylum-seekers.

According to the DHS report, the U.S. accepted 64,238 immigrants from China in 2009, a drop from the 80,271 immigrants accepted in 2008. 11,295 adjusted to Legal Permanent Resident status from an employment-based preference category, compared with 15,239 in 2008.

Immigrants from India represented 57,304 of the total, a slight drop from the 63,352 in the previous year. However, just 12,911 received their green cards from an employment category, compared with 25,577 persons in 2008.

The U.S. accepted 8,038 immigrants from Taiwan and of those, 1,884 immigrated from an employment-based preference category. Again, there is a declining trend in immigration numbers. In 2008, 9,073 immigrants from Taiwan received Legal Permanent Resident Status. 3,281 received LPR status from an employment-based preference category.

In 2008, the U.S. granted green cards to 26,666 immigrants from South Korea. Of those, 16,165 adjusted from an employment-based preference category. In comparison to previously discussed countries, Korea experienced an unremarkable drop to 25,859 green cards awarded in 2009, with 14,147 awarded to workers.

In 2009, we see a declining trend in Legal Permanent Resident Status adjustments; however, several helpful trends are apparent. While the overall number of adjustments has declined, certain categories, most notably EB-5, are less affected than others.
The 2009 numbers in immigration may provide a good reference for trends in the future. The current U.S. immigration system is a well established, complicated system. It is less likely that the debated Comprehensive Immigration Reform will totally overhaul the current system. The reform may introduce more avenues for the legalization of undocumented aliens. Nevertheless, we believe that new opportunities for undocumented aliens, if adopted, will not impact the benefits of aliens qualified under the current system. Therefore, those who are qualified for immigration petitions should actively seek benefits under the current system.


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