The US is edging closer to scrapping green card country caps, potentially easing restrictions on immigration for skilled foreign workers. Two US Senators have introduced the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act of 2022 in the US Senate. Under the Act, the 7% per country cap on US green cards would be eliminated.
Meanwhile, the Act would also increase the per-country limit on family-sponsored US visas from 7% to 15%. The proposals would enable US employers to focus on recruiting immigrants based on merit, not their country of birth. The Bill was cleared by the US House Judiciary Committee in April this year.
Currently, only 140,000 employment-based US visas can be issued yearly – with a 7% cap on every country. If applications from one country should exceed the 7% allocation a backlog is created and the excess approved petitions are not considered until a US visa becomes available and an application falls within the 7% country cap.
Unfortunately, the current system creates extensive backlogs, especially for skilled workers from India and China.
According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data, 369,322 applicants with approved employment-based visa petitions are currently waiting for US visa availability.
In order to combat the backlog, USCIS has scrapped in-person US visa interviews for many of the applicants.
Meanwhile, data from the US visa office shows that the federal government had 66,781 unused employment-based green cards in the 2021 fiscal year, despite nearly 1.4 million immigrants waiting for a green card.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, one of the senators to put forward the EAGLE Act, said: “The basic framework for allocating the immigrant visa 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.”
However, over time the limitations placed on US visas have led to huge backlogs, which back in 1990 would have been unimaginable, according to Lofgren. The effect of this has been that countries with smaller populations are allocated the same numbers of US visas as nations with a much larger population.
Lofgren said: “The result of this has been that a person from a large-population country with extraordinary qualifications who could contribute greatly to our economy and create jobs waits behind a person with lesser qualifications from a smaller country.”
“It makes no sense. Because of this, we are now seeing recruiters from outside America luring those with the highest skills away from the US. That hurts our economy,” Lofgren added.
The co-founder and president of Immigration Voice, Aman Kapoor, said: “The EAGLE Act is a win-win for the American people.”
“Every member of Congress now agrees that it is morally and legally indefensible to have a discriminatory per-country-based allocation system for employment-based green cards that bans talented Indian immigrants from receiving green cards during their lifetime if they apply today,” Kapoor added.
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