Bill to reduce massive green card backlog introduced in Congress

Jumpstart our Legal Immigration System Act may help Indians facing decades long wait due to 7% per-country cap

In yet another attempt to reduce a massive Green Card backlog, a new bill has been introduced in the US Congress to recapture nearly 380,000 unused family and employment-based visas.

If enacted, the legislation may potentially help hundreds of thousands of Indians stuck in a decade long waiting line for green cards due to a 7% per-country cap for all nations big or small.

Introduced by House Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee’s Democratic Chair Zoe Lofgren on April 4, the Jumpstart our Legal Immigration System Act, aims to recapture about 222,000 unused family-sponsored visas and about 157,000 employment-based visas.

Read: House panel approves bill to remove green card country caps (April 7, 2022)

The legislation would also allow individuals who are in the US and eligible for a green card – but for the lack of an available visa number – to apply for their green card upon paying a fee.

Both major provisions included in this bill were part of the House-passed version of the Build Back Better Act.

The bill is co-sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, Congresswoman Judy Chu and Ritchie Torres, all Democrats.

Besides recapturing unused immigrant visas from 1992 through 2021, the legislation would also allow an estimated 40,000 individuals who were selected for, but did not receive, the diversity visa lottery to reapply for such visas.

These individuals were unable to finalize the process or enter the US due to various executive orders or Covid-related office closures and restrictions.

This will allow individuals to receive work authorization while they wait for a visa number to become available and will prevent dependent children from “aging out” of eligibility for LPR status.

The legislation also allows immigrants who are in the US to receive an exemption from the immigrant visa numerical limits and adjust their status to a green card if their immigrant visa petition has been approved for two years and they pay a supplemental fee.

There are currently around four million individuals waiting in the family-sponsored immigrant visa backlog and one million individuals waiting in the employment-based immigrant visa backlog, according to latest US State Department data cited by the lawmakers,

The legislation amends the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to prevent the future loss of unused employment-based visas by ensuring that they roll over to the family-based categories as Congress intended.

Read: USCIS approved 50% more green cards in FY 2021 (December 17, 2021)

To adjudicate these applications and reduce case processing backlogs, the legislation includes $400 million for US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“We all know that our immigration system is dysfunctional, and it has been in dire need of reform for decades,” said Lofgren.

“The basic framework for allocating immigrant visas dates back to the middle of the 20th century and was last seriously updated in 1990, when Congress established the worldwide numerical limits on visas and the 7% per-country cap that still exists today.”

“Over time, these limitations have led to backlogs that were unimaginable in 1990,” she said. “The Jumpstart our Legal Immigration System Act will help reduce the backlogs, thereby enabling immigrants to fully contribute to their communities and our national economy, while also allowing US companies to attract and retain high-skilled workers.”

“That will enhance our country’s competitive advantage and our position as a global leader in innovation.”

“By restoring the availability of immigrant visas lost due to Covid-19 or bureaucratic delay and enhancing green card processing, we are investing in our families and US businesses,” said Nadler.

“Our immigration system is in desperate need of reform and this legislation is a vital step in the right direction,” he said calling it “a no-brainer for our communities and economy.”

“There are over four million people in the family immigration backlogs waiting to be reunited with their loved ones. Recapturing unused visas that were lost to delays and bureaucracy would help ease the already burdensome backlogs for immigrant families and workers,” said Rep. Chu.

The act “will not only help to alleviate these years long wait times for families, but it will also ensure that we honor the diversity visas that were earned but were denied based on the Trump administration’s cruel Muslim and African bans.”

Read: Indians to benefit from US bill granting automatic right to H-4 visa holders to work in America (April 8, 2022)

“From his first days in office, President Biden acted swiftly to reverse the deeply damaging immigration policies of the Trump administration, yet it is no question that our immigration system has been broken for decades,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres.

The legislation “will begin to address the visa backlog that has prevented hundreds-of-thousands family- and employment-based visas to enter the US, while also providing relief for diversity visa winners impacted by the Trump Muslim Ban. I am proud to support legislation that will finally bring much needed reform to our immigration system.”

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