Everything you need to know about H.R. 1044, the bill aimed at reducing green card backlog

Can the “Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act” dramatically reduce the green card backlog in America? How exactly does it work and more importantly, who would benefit from it?

There is a new term in the dictionary of perhaps every prospective Indian immigrant to the United States these days, and that is “H.R. 1044 or the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act.” The bill, initially sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) on February 7, 2019, was passed by the House of Representatives last week, on July 10, 2019.

Its companion bill, S. 386 , was introduced in the Senate on July 11, 2019. It has been read twice and referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

How does the bill affect the per country cap green card system?

H.R. 1044 increases the per-country cap on the existing rule of immigrant visa distribution. The bill eliminates the 7 percent per-country cap for employment-based immigrant visas.

Additionally, the bill increases the per-country cap on family-based immigrant visas from 7 percent of visas available a year to 15 percent. Immigration activists in the country have long been calling for fair immigration reforms. This bill was introduced as a means to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants and to increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-sponsored immigrants, and for other purposes.

Arguments for the bill

Supporters of the bill reason that the current per country limit of 7 percent ensures that citizens from any particular country cannot receive more than 7 percent of the visas issued in a given year. This rule, according to many, puts countries such as India and China in complete disadvantage, as these are the countries with the highest number of green card applicants. So, while some people are stuck in the green card backlog for decades, even half a century by estimates, others may be getting it within a few months, while many other quotas go wasted as citizens from many countries do not even apply their prescribed quotas.

Arguments against the bill

Those who do not support the bill argue that per-country cap is a fair system to ensure that immigrants from all the countries have a chance to immigrate to America. Ending the per-country cap would veer in favor of the countries such as India and China.

Why was there a need to introduce H.R. 1044?

H.R. 1044 was introduced with the purpose of removing the per-country percentage caps in the green card process. Under the current law, thousands of green card applicants are stuck in decades-long back log because they come from populous countries with maximum applications for green card.

And now, the oft-repeated question, does the bill favor Indians?

Immigration experts have stressed that there is nothing in the bill per se that says that Indian nationals would be favored. However, Indians are by far the highest subscribers for employment based immigration. This is due to the fact that Indians receive a vast majority of H-1B visas annually.

The bill would remove an offset that restricts the number of visas for people from China. It would establish transition rules for employment-based visa dating from financial year 2020-2022 and reserve a percentage of EB-2, EB-3 and EB-5 visas for individuals who do not belong to the two countries with the highest number of recipients of such visas. The bill also includes a “no harm provision,” which means that every person who is currently in line for a green card is guaranteed a better wait time, if the bill is passed.

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