The Immigration and Nationality Act limits the number of employment-based immigrant visas that can be issued each year to a worldwide level of 140,000. This limited number of visas is allocated based on preference category and country of birth -- as such, each country is subject to an individual per-country quota, in addition to the overall worldwide quota. For foreign nationals who are being sponsored by their employers for a green card, the most common preference categories are the employment-based first, second, and third preference categories, or EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3.

Due to the limited number of immigrant visas, combined with the very high demand for these visas, most foreign nationals are subject to significant backlogs that delay the process of obtaining permanent residency. These backlogs are expressed in the Department of State’s monthly Visa Bulletin.

The graph below shows the trends of employment-based immigrant visa quota backlogs over time. Click the color-coded buttons in the key at the bottom of the graph to toggle the views for specific countries and green card categories.