The Congressional Research Service has recommended removing the per-country caps for employment-based visa holders seeking legal permanent resident status, in a report released Dec. 21, 2018.
In its report titled “Permanent Employment-Based Immigration and the Per-country Ceiling” (https://bit.ly/2F48RxQ) CRS, a non-partisan research entity for Congress, notes that, currently, each country can only annually receive up to 7 percent of all employment-based green cards.
The U.S. issues 140,000 employment-based green cards per year.
Most applicants originate from India, followed by China, and the Philippines. Unused visas are not allocated to back-logged countries.
Skilled Immigrants In America, an Indian American advocacy organization which has lobbied extensively for the removal of per-country caps, notes that it takes an average of 70 years for an H-1B visa holder and their dependent spouse to port their employment-based visas into legal permanent resident status, otherwise known as a green card.
While the latest data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services notes that about 318,000 Indians are currently stuck in the green card backlog, SIIA states that 1.5 million Indians are trapped in the queue.
As the 116 session of Congress gets underway, with a new Democratic majority in the House, several members are expected to introduce bi-partisan legislation which would eliminate the per-country cap.
“Some argue that eliminating the per-country ceiling would increase the flow of high-skilled immigrants from countries such as India and China, who are often employed in the U.S. technology sector, without increasing the total annual admission of employment-based LPRs,” said CRS in its report.
“Many of those waiting for employment-based LPR status are already employed in the United States on temporary visas, a potentially exploitative situation that some argue incentivizes immigrant-sponsoring employers to continue to recruit foreign nationals primarily from these countries for temporary employment,” said CRS, adding: “Others counter that the statutory per-country ceiling restrains the dominance of a handful of employment-based immigrant-sending countries and preserves the diversity of immigrant flows.”
SIIA notes that a doctor with an H-1B visa, arriving from any country other than India, can get a green card within 7 months. Indian doctors must wait up to 70 years, noted the organization, adding that many Indian H-1B visa holders have lived in the U.S. for over a decade, and have made “tremendous contributions” to the U.S. economy, via investments in real estate and retirement funds, among other factors.
The green card backlog also deeply affects the children of H-1B visa holders who port out of the queue once they reach the age of 18, and are no longer considered dependents of their immigrant parents. Such children can attend U.S. colleges, but must pay costly international student fees, and may be forced to return to the home country after finishing their studies if they cannot port their student visas into an H-1B or other employment-based visa.
Bills to eliminate the per-country cap have been introduced in previous Congressional sessions. HR 392 – also known as the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act – was introduced in the House on Jan. 10, 2017, by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. Chaffetz resigned from his seat last June. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas, continued as the lead sponsor of the bill, which had 303 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. Immigration Voice, an Indian American advocacy organization, lobbied extensively for the measure.