Bill to remove green card country caps introduced in Senate

New merit based system to help Indians stuck in decades long green card backlog

Bringing some good cheer to hundreds of thousands of Indians stuck in decades long wait for green cards, a new bill has been introduced in the US Senate to bring about a merit based immigration system.

The Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act of 2022 phases out the 7% per-country limit on employment-based immigrant visas (green cards) and raises the 7% per-country limit on family-sponsored green cards to 15%.

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

Senators Kevin Cramer and John Hickenlooper introduced the bipartisan legislation in the Senate that was earlier introduced in the House of Representatives by Zoe Lofgren and John Curtis.

Under US immigration laws 140,000 employment based green cards can be issued each year. However, only 7% of such green cards can go to individuals from a country big or small. This creates a massive backlogs for individuals from certain countries, notably India and China.

FWD.us a bipartisan political organisation whose founders include Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, estimates that more than 800,000 people, including dependent spouses and children, primarily from India, are stuck in the employment based green card backlog.

According to its findings, as of March 2022, there were 692,000 Indians stuck in this backlog, followed by 106,000 Chinese. The wait times are projected to be 50 plus years, if the law is not changed. An adverse fall out is that children age out (when they turn 21) and families are torn apart.

A joint press release by Senators Kevin Cramer and John Hickenlooper points out that approximately 95% of employment-based immigrants currently live and work in the US on temporary visas while waiting for a green card to become available.

The new, phased-in system, established in the bipartisan EAGLE Act, would help ease the backlog for those who wait the longest.

This bill is an updated version of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (HR 1044) bipartisan legislation that passed both the House and the Senate last year with unanimous consent, but which was never reconciled to be sent to the President for signature.

The new version of EAGLE Act reserves some green cards and establishes a complex transition period before the employment-based per-country cap is completely eliminated, to ensure that immigrants from lower admission countries do not face significantly increased wait times as a result of the bill.

Read: House panel set to vote on bill to remove green card country caps (April 4, 2022)

The bill also includes language to protect families and address challenges brought on by the backlogs, including allowing individuals to file for adjustment of status before a green card is available to them if they have waited two years or more for an available visa.

Filing early to adjust would allow individuals to secure travel authorization and portable employment authorization so that they could change employers.

The bill ensures that children remain eligible regardless of their age when the visa becomes available, helping keep families together.

In addition to per-country cap modernization, the EAGLE Act also introduces new oversight and reporting requirements, and new fees for the H-1B highly-skilled temporary worker program.

“It’s no secret our immigration system is broken and, given current workforce challenges, it’s high time to implement a skills-based immigration system,” said Cramer.

“Everyone is hurting for workers. Fixing our immigration system will help fix our workforce shortage and spur economic growth. Removing arbitrary caps based on where an immigrant is born should be part of the solution,” said Hickenlooper.

“The EAGLE Act is a win-win for the American people. Similar provisions passed both bodies of Congress last year illustrating broad, bipartisan support among members,” said Aman Kapoor, Co-Founder and President, Immigration Voice.

Read: US House panel passes Eagle Act draft seeking removal of country cap for employment-based green cards (April 7, 2022)

“This bill transitions the allocation of employment based green cards to a first-come, first served application while not unduly burdening foreign nationals from countries that were accustomed to special treatment and having no wait time at all to receive green cards due to discriminatory per country limits,” he said.

“It ensures that in exchange for changing the green card system to become fairer for all international applicants, American workers are made the top-priority for hiring by all US companies such that no foreign worker can undercut an American worker for a US job,” Kapoor Said.

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