In a time where many people feel bipartisanship is dead, the House of Representatives passed on November 29 in a landslide of 389 to 15 HR 3012 – the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act. If the bill is eventually passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama, it would eliminate country caps on employment immigration categories and it would raise the family-based visa caps for each country from 7% to 15% of the total visa category. The bill wouldn’t eliminate employment immigration numbers overnight as EB-2 and EB-3 countries will still exist with each country facing a cap of 25% of visas issued for each country for a two year period. After the two year period is over, the cap increases to 85% for each country.
The bill is expected to be extremely beneficial to individuals from China, India, and the Philippines as those in both family-sponsored and employment-sponsored immigration categories continue to face long wait times. However, the total number of employment and family sponsored visas would remain the same. Therefore, this bill simply is a numbers game and fails to grasp the critical problem of strict numerical limits for these visas.
Currently, 140,000 employment based visas are available each year. This number is divided between the five categories. No more than 9,800 nationals of the same country can receive employment visas. The bill will increase that number to 21,000. However, the employment-immigration number includes not only the employees, but also their immediate family members. Therefore, the actual number of foreign workers coming under employment visas is likely much lower.
While this may be a small victory for China and India as priority dates would move up dramatically if the bill passes, it will create backlogs in places where previously none existed. This bill would make one wait period for all countries by 2015. Therefore, Congress has played a numbers game rather than fixing the real issue – an undersupply of employment visas. Although there isn’t much support for increasing green card quota numbers, Congress is considering an exemption on employment visas for foreign nationals who have earned advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from U.S. universities. Congress however has failed to listen to the testimony of top executives in the high tech industry which state their continued under-supply of workers is a result of the employment immigration quotas. U.S. workers will not be harmed if the quotas are increased because demand has far exceeded supply. In addition, many other countries are currently seizing on this reality by attracting these professions from STEM categories that the US has been slow in recognizing.
Although many are saying that because of HR 3012, bipartisanship is not dead, it is easy to see why such a bill would pass. It really doesn’t change anything or promote reform. It is simply a numbers game and a superficial change.
Danielle Beach-Oswald is the current President and Managing Partner of Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates in Washington, DC. Ms. Beach utilizes her 19 years of experience in immigration law to help individuals immigrate to the United States for humanitarian reasons. Born in Brussels, Belgium, Ms. Beach has lived in England, Belgium, Italy and Ivory Coast and has traveled extensively to many countries. Ms. Beach advocates for clients from around the world who seek freedom from torture in their country, or who are victims of domestic violence and trafficking. She has also represented her clients at U.S. Consulates in Romania, China, Canada, Mexico, and several African countries. With her extensive experience in family-based and employment-based immigration law Ms. Beach not only assists her clients in obtaining a better standard of living in the United States, she also helps employers obtain professional visas, and petitions for family members. She also handles many complex naturalization issues. Ms. Beach has unique expertise representing clients in immigration matters pending before the Federal District Courts, Circuit Courts, Board of Immigration Appeals and Immigration Courts. She has won over 400 humanitarian cases in the United States. Her firm's website is www.boilapc.com.