In a development that might benefit India's highly skilled IT proffessionals who wish to work and settle abroad, the US lawmakers on Wednesday passed a Bill that is aimed at lifting the current seven percent country-cap on issuing Green Cards.
A Green Card allows a person to live and work permanently in the US.
The bill which is passed by the US House of Representatives, if it turns into law, will come as a relief for professionals from countries like India, who are seeking permanent work and residency permits in the United States.
Titled the Fairness of High-Skilled Immigrants Act, 2019 or HR 1044, the Bill was passed by the 435-member House by an overwhelming majority of 365-65 votes.
As per the present system, out of the total number of family-based immigrant visas to be given by the US in a particular year, the people of a country can be given a maximum of seven percent of such visas. The new Bill seeks to increase this seven percent per-country limit to 15 percent.
Similarly, it also seeks to eliminate the seven percent per-country cap on employment-based immigrant visas. Additionally, it removes an offset that reduced the number of visas for individuals from China.
The bill also establishes transition rules for employment-based visas from FY 2020-22 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 from other than the two countries that get the largest number of such visas.
As per another provision of the Bill, not more than 85 percent of the unreserved visas, would be allotted to immigrants from any single country.
Before it can be signed into law by the US president, the Bill, however, has to be passed by the Senate, wherein the Republicans enjoy a majority.
An identical bill sponsored by Senators Kamala Harris and Mike Lee, both are likely to be taken up soon. The Senate bill S386 currently has 34 co-sponsors.
Congressman John Curtis, speaking on the floor of the House, said the Bill will create a first-come, first-served system providing certainty to workers and families and enabling the US companies to flourish and compete in a global economy as they hire the brightest people to create products, services, and jobs, regardless of where they were born.
If President Donald Trump “is serious about merit-based legal immigration, he should help usher this bill into law,” said Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.
The passage of the Bill was hailed by Indian professionals from across the US, particularly those from the Silicon Valley in California, Seattle area in Washington state, the Greater Washington DC area and the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The Department of Homeland Security, however, has said it does not support the Bill.
“This bill would do nothing to move the current employment-sponsored system toward a more merit-based system,” said Joseph S Joh, Assistant Director and Senior Advisor in the Office of Legislative Affairs, Department of Homeland Security.
Top American IT companies welcomed the passage of the bill and urged the Senate to pass it at the earliest.
“Today the US House passed the legislation to ensure people from all countries are treated alike in the Green Card process. This promotes a fair high-skilled immigration system that’s good for the business and our economy,” said Microsoft president Brad Smith.
“This bill will help ensure those seeking permanent residency don’t have to wait for extraordinarily long periods, -- projected at 50 years or more for people from countries like India and China -- simply because of their country of origin,” said FWD.US president Todd Schulte, hailing the passage of the FHSI Act.
FWD.US is an advocacy organization representing top Silicon Valley firms including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and DropBox.
“Eliminating ‘per-country’ caps for employment-based Green Cards and raising caps for family-based green cards will make the system fairer for immigrant families and strengthen the United States’ ability to recruit and retain top global talent by establishing a fair and predictable path to permanent legal status,” he said.
Hindu American Foundation too welcomed the passage of the Bill.
“It is now up to the Senate to ensure that fairness is delivered to high-skilled immigrants who have been stuck in a decades-long backlog waiting for their chance to become full-fledged contributors to the American economy. The time to act is now," said Jay Kansara of the Hindu American Foundation.