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Bills introduced in House & Senate to remove per-country Green Card limits

February 09, 2019 04:56 AM


Bills introduced in House & Senate to remove per-country Green Card limits
If Approved, Legislations Will Benefit Indians On H-1B Visas Whose Current Wait Time For Permanent Legal Residency Is Over 10 Years

Two identical legislations backed by top companies from the Silicon Valley like Google have been introduced in the US House of Representatives and Senate to end the per-country limit on green cards and could benefit thousands of Indian professionals waiting to gain permanent legal residency if signed into law.

In the Senate, Republican Mike Lee and Democratic presidential aspirant Kamala Harris introduced the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act on Wednesday, a bill that would remove per-country cap for employment-based green cards. An identical bill — Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (HR 1044) — was tabled in the US House of Representatives by Congressman Zoe Lofgren and Ken Buck, Chair and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, with cosponsorship of a bipartisan group of 112 Congressmen.

If passed by Congress and signed into law, the legislations would benefit thousands of Indian professionals on H-1B visas whose current wait time for permanent legal residency is more than a decade.

The H-1B visa, most soughtafter among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Having a Green Card (officially known as a Permanent Resident Card) allows a person to live and work permanently in the US.

According to some recent studies, some categories of those Indian professionals face a wait of 151 years under the current system which imposes a country cap on people who get green cards.

The US makes currently 140,000 green cards available every year to employment-based immigrants, including many who first come here on temporary H-1B or L visas. The existing law, however, provides that not more than 7% of these green cards can go to nationals of any one country — even though some countries are more populous than others.

Because of this 7% limit, for example, a Chinese or Indian post-graduate may have to wait half a decade or more for a Green Card, much longer than a student from a less-populated country.

“Ours is a nation of immigrants, and our strength has always come from our diversity and our unity,” Indian-American Senator Kamala Harris said. “We must do more to eliminate discriminatory backlogs and facilitate family unity so that high-skilled immigrants are not vulnerable to exploitation and can stay in the US and continue to contribute to the economy,” she said.

Co-sponsored by 13 more Senators, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act increases the per-country caps for family-sponsored green cards from 7% to 15%.

Without adding any new green cards, it creates a “firstcome, first-served” system that alleviates the backlogs and allows green cards to be awarded more efficiently.

“Immigrants should not be penalised due to their country of origin,” Republican Mike Lee said. “Treating people fairly and equally is part of our founding creed and the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act reflects that belief. Immigration is often a contentious issue, but we should not delay progress in areas where there is bipartisan consensus just because we have differences in other areas,” Lee said.

The bill has also been endorsed by Immigration Voice, Compete America Coalition, the Information Technology Industry Council, Google, Walmart, the US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, The Heritage Foundation, La Raza, and many others

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