Biden vows to end green card caps, increase H-1B visas

US visa

Democrat also promises to protect dreamers, create roadmap to citizenship for 11 million undocumented.

In what may be music to Indian ears, presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has vowed to end the country-wise green card caps and increase the number of H1-B visas while linking it to wages.

Accusing his Republican rival President Donald Trump of waging “an unrelenting assault on our values and our history as a nation of immigrants,” former vice president’s campaign says, “ It’s wrong, and it stops when Joe Biden is elected president.”

Biden’s “Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants” says in the first 100 days, a Biden Administration will work with the Congress on comprehensive immigration reforms.

These would among other things also protect Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children, and their families and create a roadmap to citizenship for the nearly 11 million illegal immigrants.

Suggesting that Trump’s policies are also bad for our economy, the Biden plan noted that “For generations, immigrants have fortified our most valuable competitive advantage–our spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Citing research suggesting that the total annual contribution of foreign-born workers is roughly $2 trillion, the plan noted, “Key sectors of the US economy, from agriculture to technology, rely on immigration.”

“Working-age immigrants keep our economy growing, our communities thriving, and country moving forward,” it added.

Addressing the issue of decades long wait faced by Indian professionals for green cards, the plan says “Biden will support expanding the number of high-skilled visas and eliminating the limits on employment-based visas by country, which create unacceptably long backlogs.”

Attempts by both Democratic and Republican parties to introduce laws to lift the 7% country cap, which in the case of India stands at 20,000, have stalled in Congress.

“Currently, the number of employment-based visas is capped at 140,000 each year, without the ability to be responsive to the state of the labor market or demands from domestic employers,” it said.

As president, the plan said, Biden will work with Congress to increase the number of visas awarded for permanent, employment-based immigration “and promote mechanisms to temporarily reduce the number of visas during times of high US unemployment.”

To ensure that those getting H1-Bs for highly skilled professional workers, nearly two thirds of which go to Indians, do not compete for entry level jobs or work against recruiting workers already in the US, these visas would be linked to wages.

“High skilled temporary visas should not be used to disincentivize recruiting workers already in the US for in-demand occupations,” the Biden plan said.

“An immigration system that crowds out high-skilled workers in favor of only entry level wages and skills threatens American innovation and competitiveness.”

“Biden will work with Congress to first reform temporary visas to establish a wage-based allocation process and establish enforcement mechanisms to ensure they are aligned with the labor market and not used to undermine wages,” it added.

Biden also wants to exempt foreign students getting PhD degrees in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in the US from visa caps and automatically give green cards to those getting doctorates.

“Biden believes that foreign graduates of a US doctoral program should be given a green card with their degree and that losing these highly trained workers to foreign economies is a disservice to our own economic competitiveness,” his plan said.

He also wants to introduce a new category of immigrant visas that would be awarded through cities and local administrations facing shrinking populations and lacking entrepreneurs on the condition that those getting them settle in those areas.

“Biden will support a program to allow any county or municipal executive of a large or midsize county or city to petition for additional immigrant visas to support the region’s economic development strategy, provided employers in those regions certify there are available jobs, and that there are no workers to fill them,” the plan said.

The Biden plan also opposed a “false choice” between green cards for workers and those for family reunification, which Trump wants to severely limit while switching to a merit-based system.

Applicants approved for family green cards will be given temporary visas under the program and spouses and children of green card-holders will be exempt from limits on permanent resident visas, under the Biden plan.

His plan will also simplify the process for green card-holders to get citizenship and eliminate roadblocks imposed by Trump such as making it harder for those who have availed of public benefits.


USCIS: Nearly 600,000 H-1B visa holders working in the US (June 29, 2020)

H-1B, H4 and L1 visa banned till the end of the year (June 22, 2020)

H-1B updates: What are the implications of Trump’s new executive order? (Posted June 22, 2020)

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