The US House of Representatives, on Wednesday, passed (365-65) the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, which increases the annual limit of family-based immigrant visas offered to citizens of each country and eliminates the country-wise caps on employment-based immigrant visas .
This will have a significant impact on nationals of countries such as India, in whose case demand for immigrant visas (which convert to green cards upon admission to the U.S.) exceeds the number of visas available each year, resulting in wait times that could run into decades.
The version of the Bill passed by the House, increases the per-country cap on family-based green cards from the current 7% of all green cards issued in any year to 15%. The Bill altogether eliminates employment-based green card caps. As of November 2017, China, India and the Philippines, in that order, accounted for the top three countries whose nationals got approved for employment based immigrant visas.
The House Bill also provides a transition period from fiscal year 2020 to 2022 by reserving a percentage of employment visas – in the EB-2 (exceptional ability), EB-3 (skilled workers) and EB-5 (investors) categories, for individuals who are not from the two countries whose nationals claim most of these visas.
This mechanism has presumably been incorporated to help ensure that no person who is already in line for a green card is going to be made any worse off with the passage of this law.
For instance, those in line from countries that do not use up their yearly cap, will wait longer once the per country caps are adjusted or removed. This transition mechanism presumably allows those already in line from countries with lower green card demand to be cleared before caps are liberalized or eliminated. Critics of a cap-free system argue that caps keep a few countries from dominating the employment – immigration route.
Now that the House has passed a law changing or eliminating caps, the Senate will need to pass a comparable bill before it can become law.
"This isn't the first time this bill passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming bipartisan majority— it happened in 2011, but the Senate did nothing. This time there's momentum in the Senate, though, because certain senators wrote in some tighter H-1B rules they have wanted for a long time. So supporters of this bill can be cautiously optimistic,” Doug Rand, formerly an immigration policy official at the Obama White House and co-founder of Boundless, a firm specializing in green cards and US citizenship, told The Hindu.