US Senate passes bill eliminating country cap for immigrant job visas
08 December 2020
The US Senate has unanimously passed a bill that does away with country-wise quotas for employment-based immigrant visas and raises it for family-based visas, a legislation that will hugely benefit hundreds of thousands of Indian professionals in America who have been waiting for years to get their green cards.
The passage of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act by the Senate on Wednesday comes as a big relief to Indian IT professionals who come to the US on H-1B work visas and, under current laws, have to wait for decades for Green Card or permanent residency.
The US House of Representatives had, on 19 July 2019, passed the bill by a bipartisan 365 to 65 votes,
The legislation, sponsored by Republican Senator Mike Lee from Utah in the Senate, increases the per-country cap on family-based immigrant visas from seven per cent of the total number of such visas available that year to 15 per cent.
The legislation eliminates the seven per cent cap for employment-based immigrant visas, a provision that will facilitate removal of the massive backlog of Indian IT professionals in the US.
It also removes an offset that reduced the number of visas for individuals from China. The per-country caps had jeopardised the legal status of Indian IT professionals.
In fiscal year 2019, Indian nationals received 9,008 category 1 (EB1), 2,908 category 2 (EB2), and 5,083 category 3 (EB3) Green Cards.
EB1-3 are different categories of employment-based Green Cards.
In July, Senator Lee had told the Senate that the backlog for an Indian national to get permanent residency or Green Card is more than 195 years.
The new legislation also establishes transition rules for employment-based visas from FY2020-FY2022, by reserving a percentage of EB-2 (workers with advanced degrees or exceptional ability), EB-3 (skilled and other workers), and EB-5 (investors) visas for individuals not from the two countries with the largest number of recipients of such visas.
Of the unreserved visas, not more than 85 per cent shall be allotted to immigrants from any single country.
Currently, there is a backlog of almost one million foreign nationals and accompanying family members lawfully residing in the US who have been approved for, and are waiting to receive, employment-based Green Cards.
The largest number of visaholders waiting for Green Card are from India.