Bill Eliminating Country Cap Should Be Opposed

By Reuben Seguritan

There is a bill in Congress which aims to eliminate the per country limitation for employment-based immigrants and increase the per country cap for family-based immigrants. Known as “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019” it passed the House last July 10 but it failed a unanimous consent vote in the Senate after Senator Dick Durbin objected.

Under the current law there is a per-country maximum of 7% of all employment-based immigrant visas (green card) allocated each year. This means that regardless of the population of a country or the number of petitions per country, each country in the world is limited to 7% of the total number of green cards issued per year.

The total number of employment-based visas that can be issued is 140,000 per year. The USCIS counts the visas issued to dependents such as spouses and minor children in this total number. Hence, there is a huge backlog of petitions from certain countries such as India and China because there are a lot of technology companies in the US seeking to petition these skilled workers. The largest backlogs are in the second and third preference categories. USCIS reported that as of May 2018 there were 586,439 workers on the waiting list for these 2 preferences. The backlogs are broken down as follows: India- 548,645, China 41, 525 and the other countries-0.

Under the bill, immigrants would be granted green cards on a first-come first-served basis regardless of where they were born. There will be a three year adjustment period for those that were not born in India or China giving them 15% for the first year and 10% for the second and 3rd year. Under this guaranteed percentage of visa, Indians would receive no more than 85% and the Chinese will get the balance.

There is a so-called “no-harm provision” which will protect those with an approved visa petition prior to the bill’s enactment by guaranteeing that they will receive their green card no later than when they would have received it.

The Senate bill creates a temporary category for 7,200 workers in shortage occupations (nurses and physical therapists) from 2020 to 2028. No more than 2,800 can go to dependents.

The bill also provides for an increase in the number of family-based visa available for each country. The numerical limitation for each country will be increased from 7% of the 226,000 worldwide total to 15%. Countries with visa backlogs like the Philippines and Mexico will benefit.

Despite the temporary relief for nurses and families, the bill should be opposed.

The bill as a whole will not solve the backlogs but would worsen it. Indians and Chinese will benefit at the expense of others. If Congress wants to improve our immigration system, the solution is to add additional visa numbers and exclude dependents in the count.

The waiting times for residency under the bill will probably go from 10 years (for Indians) to 17 years for everyone after Indian nationals use the visas. That includes the whole world- every profession and kind of skill. The total backlog for employment-based residency will probably increase to over 1 million in 2029. Congress should not pit Indian nationals against the rest of the world. Congress should enact a system to make more permanent residency visas available, where healthcare and scientific research are acknowledged as priorities, a system that encourages skilled workers to remain in the US.

Senator Rand Paul has introduced legislation to actually solve the problem- the BELIEVE ACT and Senator Dick Durbin also introduced the RELIEF ACT. These bills will increase the number of visas, end the process of counting spouses and children when allocating visas, and give some limited priority to health care workers and allow early filing of residency for such high skilled workers. There are other discussions in the Senate involving both Republicans and Democrats focused on actually solving the green card backlog for Indians without hurting the rest of the world. This should not be a case of choosing IT workers over nurses or doctors; Indians over the rest of the world. The national interest is to give green cards quickly to those beneficiaries who have qualified with their skills and shown that they are needed without displacing qualified American workers.