Proposed Legislation Would Remove Per-Country Quotas for Employment-Based Green Cards

On Thursday, July 10th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019” (HR 1044). If signed into law, this bill would remove per-country quota limits for most employment-based immigrant visa (green card) categories. The bill, which was sponsored by Representative Zoe Lorgren (D-CA), is designed to benefit Chinese and Indian-born tech workers who are negatively and disproportionately affected by the current quota system,. This system establishes yearly green card limits based on an applicant’s country of birth. Persons born in India, for example, often wait over 12 years for an employer sponsored green card, while the process for persons from most other countries usually takes less than two years. If HR 1044 becomes law, it would not remove employment-based green card quotas altogether. Applicants would still face a ‘worldwide’ quota of at least 140,000 immigrant visas per year. Because of this overall limit, leveling the playing field by removing the per-country quotas would likely result in applicants from countries other than China and India facing persistent quota backlogs for the first time in several years. HR 1044 includes a ‘transition’ provision which ensures that countries other than China and India will retain a certain percentage of the overall quota for the next three fiscal years. This may lessen the immediate impact of the new legislation on persons born in these other countries. The bill also includes provisions to increase the per-country quota limits for Family-based Categories from 7% to 15%. HR 1044 does not indicate a specific effective date for the proposed legislation. If passed by the Senate and signed by the President, we expect that it would take effect during fiscal year 2020, which starts on October 1, 2019. Although the proposed legislation benefited from bi-partisan support in the House, it faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Several Republican leaders in the Senate have expressed opposition to the legislation. There have been several attempts to pass similar legislation over the past decade. All of these previous attempts failed to garner the required support of both houses. Even if HR 1044 does pass the Senate, it may be vetoed by President Trump. We will update our clients with any new developments on this proposed legislation.

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