Top American lawmakers have welcomed the passage of a legislation lifting the seven per cent country-cap on Green Card applicants, saying that the move will help in attracting and retaining the best talents in the US.
The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a legislation to remove the seven per cent country-cap on Green Card applicants, a move which could end the agonising wait of tens of thousands of talented professionals from countries like India who have applied for permanent residency in America.
A Green Card allows a non-US citizen to live and work permanently in America.
"In order for American industries to remain competitive and create more jobs, they must be able to recruit and retain the best talent in the world," Congressman Zoe Lofgren, Chair of House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship said after the passage of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigration Act.
"This becomes increasingly difficult when workers from high-population countries must compete for the same limited number of visas as workers from low population countries," Lofgren said
"Our bipartisan bill would phase-in a visa system where the applicant's nationality is irrelevant, providing relief to individuals who have waited patiently for a green card for years, if not decades, while they continue to work and contribute to our economy," he said.
"As an original co-sponsor, I'm glad to see that both parties came together to resoundingly pass the Fairness For High-Skilled Immigrants Act, legislation that will strengthen business development and economic expansion in America," said Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.
"By levelling the playing field for high-skilled applicants regardless of their country of birth, this legislation will keep families together while helping American companies retain top talent," he said.
The bill will provide relief to the thousands of families who have been stuck in employment backlogs for decades, said Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.
Indian IT professionals, most of whom are highly skilled and come to the US mainly on the H-1B work visas, are the worst sufferers of the current immigration system which imposes a seven per cent per country quota on allotment of the coveted Green Card or permanent legal residency.
"It's time to ease the backlogs and leverage the talent and expertise of our high-skilled immigrants who help strengthen the US economy and fill knowledge gaps in certain fields. These are people who have helped America grow and thrive as a nation of immigrants and we need to make sure our system continues to value those who are following our laws and doing the right thing," said Congressman Ken, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship.
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, would eliminate the "per country" cap for employment-based immigrant visas so all workers are treated equally.
This provision would be implemented over a 3-year phase-in period: during year one, no more than 85 per cent of employment-based visas may be allocated to India or China; in years two and three, no more than 90 per cent of employment-based visas may be allocated to India or China.
Also, during this period, a safety provision would prevent visas from going unused. It ensures that immigrants who have an approved employment-based visa petition prior to the bill's date of enactment do not lose their place in line.
"Our immigration policy should be transparent and based on a first come, first served basis, and that's what this bill does for employment-based Green Card applicants," said Congressman French Hill.
This bill, he noted, does not increase overall immigration numbers or the number of employment-based visas. It simply eliminates antiquated and arbitrary caps on the number of individuals who may come from a particular country and ensures that all new applicants for an employment based green card will wait the same amount of time for that green card, regardless of their country of birth.
"After they earn their green card, they will be able to open businesses, further contributing to our economy, and, should they choose and meet the qualifications, become United States citizens," he said.
The legislation passed by the House, would strengthen the American workforce by reducing the wait time for those impacted most by the decades-long backlog of immigrant visas. It would achieve this by eliminating the per-country limits on employment-based visas and implementing a fair and equitable "first come, first served" system.
The bill passed by the House on Wednesday by a bipartisan vote of 365-65, also increase the per-country limit on family-based visas from 7 per cent to 15 per cent.