Senators Kevin Cramer and John Hickenlooper introduced this bipartisan legislation that will enable merit-based immigration. Earlier, representatives Zoe Lofgren and John Curtis had introduced this bill in the US House of Representatives. This was cleared by the US House Judiciary Committee in April.
Under US immigration laws 1.40 lakh employment based green cards can be issued each year. However, only 7% of such green cards can go to individuals from a single country. If the number of individuals being sponsored from a single country is greater than 7% of the annual available total, a backlog forms, and the excess approved petitions are not considered until a visa becomes available and their petition falls within the initial 7% per-country cap. This creates extensive 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 8 lakh 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 6.92 lakh Indians mired in this backlog, followed by 1.06 lakh 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. Some of these individuals remain in temporary status for many years, if not decades, because of the caps applied to their country of nationality. 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 includes numerous bipartisan compromises and amendments negotiated in the previous Congress, meaning that the bill should enjoy broad bipartisan support in this session, too, states FWD.us.
The 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.
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, along with increased protections for US workers in both the temporary and permanent resident immigration application processes.
Caught in the employment-based green card backlog
Voices on the Bill:
FWD.us has issued a statement in support of the EAGLE Act. “As we have said time and time again, eliminating country-specific limits and reducing the green card backlog are critical actions to restoring a fair, efficient, and humane immigration system. Millions of people are stuck in these backlogs, waiting decades longer than others to receive green cards for which they’ve already been approved, all because of their country of origin. This broken system keeps families separated and undermines the United States’ economic competitiveness.
“The Senate should pass the EAGLE Act immediately to help grow our economy and enable thousands of people to stay together with their families,” adds FWD.us
Senator Cramer said: “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. In North Dakota, we rely on thousands of highly-skilled immigrants, especially when it comes to rural healthcare and software developers. These individuals play an important role in our economy and our communities, but because of arbitrary per country caps, their legal status is constantly in jeopardy. Our bill fixes this issue by instituting a merit-based system regardless of their country of origin without increasing the number of employment-based visas we already allow.”
“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 Senator 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. 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. 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. We are incredibly grateful to Senator Cramer and Senator Hickenlooper for leading the bill and urging its swift passage,” said Aman Kapoor, Co-Founder and President, Immigration Voice.