Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3012, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act by an overwhelming vote of 389-15. This bill would change the way employment-based (EB) green cards are allocated by eliminating the per country quotas. If the bill becomes law, it will equalize the waiting times for employment based permanent residence, which would result in significant advancement in EB green card availability for India and China. Unfortunately, it would also create retrogression for persons from other countries, specifically those in the EB2 category, who now enjoy a “current” status. The seven percent limit per country would be eliminated by 2015. Instead of separate queues for each country in each employment based green card category, there would be eventually be a single queue for each employment-based green card category.
Until 2015, per-country limits on green cards would still exist, but a certain number of immigrant visas would be immediately allocated to India and China and away from other countries. As a result, priority dates for India and China would quickly advance in the EB-2 and EB-3 categories. However, for other countries EB-2 could retrogress and EB-3 could see further retrogression. By 2015, the EB-2 and EB-3 categories would all be backlogged, but there would be a single priority date for all countries in each category.
Although, certainly not a perfect solution, this bill is a step in the right direction and corrects one glaring defect in the employment based green card system. It is hoped that the positive reaction that this bill received in the House would motivate other immigration bills including: special treatment for STEM and Schedule A occupations, an overall increase in the level of employment based immigration, the elimination of counting dependents toward the overall EB quota, a re-capture of unused immigrant visa numbers from prior fiscal years, and/or a market based approach to the H-1b quota. As this bill is considered by the Senate, it is hoped that further positive amendments could be added.
The bill will not become law until it passes the Senate and is signed by the President. We expect the Senate to take up this bill soon however, no time table has been set. We will keep you updated as developments occur.