For decades, immigration activists have decried what they consider discrimination in the visa allocation system based on nationality that also created an onerous backlog considered the rule, not the exception. A recent move by legislators could end that process and open the door for more immigrants seeking to work in the United States.
The US Senate approved passage of the High-Skilled Immigrants Act by unanimous consent, lifting caps on those seeking permanent residency permits. Formally known as Bill S.386, the legislation would eliminate the annual seven percent per-country cap on employment-based visas while doubling family-based immigrant visas from seven to fifteen percent.
Starting with a two-year transition from 2020 to 2022, a reserve of employment-based visas – EB-2 and EB-3 – will be set aside for applicants who do not reside in the two countries – India and China – that already have the highest number of recipients. Excluding doctors and National Interest Waivers, H-1B and H-4 visas will also be set at 70 percent with a reduction to 50 percent when the transition period ends.
Conversely, requirements placed on employers include:
- A mandated 30 days to post job openings on a newly created website
- Verifying compliance with wage requirements through a W-2 form.
- A new Labor Condition Application filling fee combined with stronger enforcement and increased fines
Even with more opportunities for immigrants to join the American workforce, concerns still exist in the United States and worldwide. The elimination of two countries’ backlog could create new buildups for other countries, denying opportunities for those citizens.
While a promising step forward, the bill is not law as of yet. A previous bill passed by the House of Representatives in mid-2019 had significant differences that will require both entities to reconcile those issues.