All about US immigration reform bill to shorten green card wait time

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The long awaited demand of Indian Americans to reform US immigration is finally stepping closer to reality. Three influential Congressmen, including Indian-Americans Raja Krishnamoorthi and Pramila Jayapal and Rich McCormick have introduced the HR 6542, the Immigration Visa Efficiency and Security Act of 2023.

During the 2023 fiscal year, the US State Department issued a near record level of non-immigrant visas – more than 10.4 million globally (Representative Photo)
During the 2023 fiscal year, the US State Department issued a near record level of non-immigrant visas – more than 10.4 million globally (Representative Photo)

The bill aims to address the green card backlog and eliminate country-based discrimination for employment-based visas.

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Congressman Rich McCormick wrote on X days after he introduced the bill in the house. “The immigration system is broken for those who are trying to legally come to our country for a better way of life. It’s time to change this.

My legislation will be a win for all Americans as it will improve our inefficient immigration system which has contributed to illegal immigration over time.”

What is Immigration Visa Efficiency and Security Act?

The bill aims to change antiquated and ‘unfair immigration laws’ while simultaneously enacting forward-thinking national security protections. It tries to address limitations of the employment-based visa system, which currently allocates visas based on the applicant’s country of birth.

Bill removes employment based green card per country caps

The Bill aims to removes lopsided per-country caps with a 10-year transition plan and will get immigration process closer merit-based system.

In the United States, backlogs created based on “country caps” on green card issuances force immigrants (especially Indians) to wait for decades after qualifying to be issued green cards.

The proposed legislation bill promotes a phased-in system to reduce the backlog for individuals waiting the longest. It will aim to gradually eliminate the seven percent per-country cap for employment-based immigrant visas as well and extend the transition period to nine years, ensuring an inclusive approach.

What is per country cap

Per-country caps are numerical restrictions to govern the allocation of green cards to individuals from specific countries. Here approximately 140,000 employment-based green cards are authorized annually. However, only a maximum of 7% of these green cards can be granted to individuals from a single country each year. If the number of sponsored individuals from a particular country exceeds the 7% limit of the annual allocation, a backlog ensues. In such cases, the surplus approved petitions are not processed until a visa becomes available, aligning with the initial 7% per-country cap.

These country-specific caps have created extensive backlogs primarily for immigrants from India and China in the employment-based categories. FWD.us estimates that more than 1 million people, including dependent spouses and children, are waiting in the U.S. in employment-based green card backlogs.

Strengthens our national security

The bill prohibits non-immigrant temporary workers from countries deemed as foreign adversaries from engaging in fields crucial to national security interests, particularly when associated with a government contract. The objective of the legislation is to improve the H-1B temporary visa program and introduce a provision allowing individuals in the immigrant visa backlog to submit a green card application for a two-year period, with approval contingent upon visa availability.

Impact on Indian Americans

If passed and enacted, Indian-Americans would be its biggest beneficiary. It will alleviate their decades-long wait for green cards experienced and make the immigration journey hurdle free. By redirecting the focus from birthplace to merit, the legislation will streamline the immigration process, enabling highly skilled workers to contribute more effectively to the nation’s growth.

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