Thursday, 18 July, 2019

Bill to relax green card cap passed

  • The US House of Representatives has passed a law that eliminates the country-wise caps on employment-based immigrant visas.


  • 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.
  • Currently, in the US, no more than 7% of all green cards can be issued to natives of one country in a fiscal year.
  • This has led to an agonising wait of tens of thousands of talented professionals from countries like India (who move for work) who have sought permanent residency.
    • Indian IT professionals, most of whom are highly skilled and come to the US mainly on the H-1B work visas, are the worst sufferers of the current immigration system.
    • Some of the recent studies have said the waiting period for Indian IT professionals on H-1B visas is more than 70 years.

Basics: Green Card

  • The official name for Green Card is “Lawful Permanent Resident Card”. It’s bureaucratic name is Form I-551.   
  • Green card allows a non-U.S. citizen to gain permanent residence in the United States.

Types of Green Cards:

  • Every year, the U.S. government issues more than a million green cards. Majority of the recipients include:
    • Family-Based Green Card: Family members of U.S. citizens and current green card holders (about 66%)
    • Employment-Based Green Card: Workers from other countries seeking employment in the United States (about 12%)
    • Humanitarian Green Cards: Other immigrants like refugees, asylum seekers through the Green Card lottery system (about 22%)
  • The other types include Diversity Lottery Green Card Longtime-Resident Green Card, Green Cards for “special immigrants” etc.

Rights to the Green card holders

  • They are allowed to immigrate to the USA and stay there for as long as they like.
  • They can live and work lawfully anywhere in the United States.
  • They can qualify for U.S. citizenship after three or five years.

News Summary:

  • The US House of Representatives passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019.
  • It seeks to amend the US Immigration and Nationality Act to:
    • altogether eliminates the country-wise caps on employment-based immigrants
    • increase the per-country cap on family-based green cards from the current 7% of all green cards issued in any year to 15%
  • With the House passing a law changing or eliminating caps, the US Senate will need to pass a comparable bill before it can become law.
  • The President has to then sign it into law.

Impact if it becomes the law:

  • Benefit for US: For the US, eliminating employment per country caps will create a first-come, first-served green card system, putting talent and skills first to meet the current and future workforce needs of this country.
    • This is especially good news for Silicon Valley, where around seven in 10 workers are foreign-born.
    • It promotes a fair high-skilled immigration system that’s good for business and economy.
  • Benefit for Indians: It helps more Indian nationals get Green cards as currently 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.
  • Concerns of diversity: Some dissenters to the law worry about one nationality—especially India—monopolising the green card numbers and compromising on diversity.

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