House Committee Approves Bill to Eliminate Per-Country Visa Caps


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The  House Judiciary Committee Approved H.R. 3012, also called the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act.  The bill would eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based visas.  Next it will move to consideration on the House floor.  If enacted, the bill would create a strictly “first in, first out” system (based on priority dates) within the existing employment-based green card system over a three year period. The measure would also immediately increase the family-based per country cap.

The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who said he supports the bill because “some countries have more of the skilled workers that American employers want, but natives of these countries must often wait years longer for green cards than natives of other countries.”  For example, in the employment-based second preference category for professionals with advanced degrees and aliens of exceptional ability, green cards are immediately available to approved applicants from most countries. However, workers from India and China must wait four years or more to obtain a green card.  Similarly, in the EB-3 category, for professionals with a bachelor’s degree and skilled workers, green cards are available to applicants from most countries who applied on or before December 2005. Immigrants from China can obtain green cards if they applied before August 2004, and Indians can obtain green cards if they applied before July 2002.

Chaffetz hailed the bill as good for jobs and the economy, saying, “We need to fix our legal immigration system,” and while this bill “doesn’t solve all of our woes, it takes an important step forward.”  Chaffetz called the legislation “pro-growth, pro-jobs, and pro-innovation.”
Chances of passage appear very good. According to Charles Oppenheim, who calculates visa availability for the Deparment of State’s Visa Bulletin, the likely effect is to create a shorter waiting list for EB 2 with the same backlog for all countries.

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