A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Bill Would Scrap Per-Country Limit for Employment-Based Immigration

Foreign hi-tech professionals are getting pumped-up recently.  

A  bipartisan group of 114 members in Congress has brought forth a bill proposing substantial changes to how immigration visas are distributed.  The H.R. 1044 bill, titled Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, aims to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in favor of immigrants from large countries.  

The main changes are to remove per-country limitations for employment-based (EB) immigration and increase per-country limitation for family-based immigration to 15% from 7 %.

The bill also proposes to remove the "offset" from the Chinese Student Protection Act (CSPA). The CSPA allowed for many Chinese nationals to immigrate to the U.S. in a short time span. It also implemented an offset of 1,000 visas every fiscal year to account for the influx of Chinese immigrants.

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Professionals from high-population countries like India and China stand to benefit greatly from the removal of per-country limitations for employment categories. There is currently a backlog of immigration cases for EB categories in these countries. Visa numbers are in high demand, and the backlog is sizable. Applicants must wait years for available immigrant visas. The scrapping of per-country limits would provide substantial relief to these backlogs and allow many more of these countries' natives to immigrate.

Family-based immigration is facing a similar backlog issue, with applicants from countries such as Mexico and the Philippines facing extremely long wait times. The increase of per-country limitations from 7% to 15% would be a welcome change for these families. 

The bill details a 3-year transitional plan that reserves 15%, then 10% of EB-2, EB-3, and EB-5 visas for countries other than the top two with the most approved petitions of the listed categories. The reserved visas will be 15% in FY 2020, then 10% in 2021 and 2022. During this period, one country may not have more than 25% of total available visas.

The proposed changes contrast greatly with the immigration policy of the current administration. It is  still unclear whether this bill will finally become law, given the current political environment.  The House already passed the bill on 07/10/2019. Thus far the Senate does not have enough sponsors to pass the bill.  Even if the bill was passed by Congress, President Trump would still have the power to veto it.  If that happens, the veto can only be overridden only by a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House.

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