The US lawmakers will on Tuesday decide on lifting the country-cap on issuing Green Cards through voting in Congress, a move which may benefit thousands of highly-skilled Indian IT professionals.
Having a Green Card allows a person to live and work permanently in the US.
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 which imposes a seven per cent per country quota on allotment of the coveted Green Cards or permanent legal residency.
Being supported by more than 310 lawmakers from both the Republican and the Democratic Party, the ‘Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act’ is all set to sail through the 435-member US House of Representatives.
Buoyed by the fact of 203 Democrats and 108 Republicans are co-sponsoring the bill, the proponents of the legislation are using a fast-track process which requires 290 votes to pass a bill without hearing and amendments.
Lifting the per-country cap would mainly benefit professionals from countries like India, for whom the wait for Green Card is more than a decade. Some of the recent studies have said the waiting period for Indian IT professionals on H-1B visas is more than 70 years.
The Library of Congress said the act, also known as HR 1044, is the most viewed bill in the week beginning July 7.
According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), this bill increases the per-country cap on family-based immigrant visas from seven per cent of the total number of such visas available that year to 15 per cent and eliminates the seven per cent cap for employment-based immigrant visas.
It also removes an offset that reduced the number of visas for individuals from China.
The bill also establishes transition rules for employment-based visas from FY 2020-22 by reserving a percentage of EB-2 (workers with advanced degrees or exceptional ability), EB-3 (skilled and other workers), and EB-5 (investors) visas for individuals not from the two countries with the largest number of recipients of such visas.
“Of the unreserved visas, not more than 85 per cent shall be allotted to immigrants from any single country,” the CRS said.
The bill, however, has to be passed by the Senate, wherein the Republicans enjoy a majority, before it can be signed into law by the US president.
A similar bill being supported by a bipartisan group of senators including Indian-origin Senator Kamala Harris is slated to come up for consideration soon. Both the identical bills in the Senate and the House were introduced in February.
In the House, it was introduced by Congressman Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat who represents portions of Northern California’s Silicon Valley, and Republican Ken Buck from Colorado, while in the Senate it was introduced by Harris and Mike Lee from Utah.
In a news report, Breitbart news described it as a giveaway legislation to 300,000 Indian H-1B visa workers.
This will incentivize “more low wage Indian graduates” to take US jobs from middle class American graduates, it said and urged Republican lawmakers supporting the bill to withdraw their co-sponsorship.
Democrats, Breitbart alleged, “have kept the legislation secret — the bill has had no hearing or committee votes — and it is being backed by the immigration lawyer who helped Democratic Sen Chuck Schumer write the disastrous ‘Gang of Eight’ amnesty in 2013”.
Joining Breitbart, the Center For Immigration Studies said the bill would reward the employers who literally replaced American workers with hundreds of thousands of low cost and less skilled contract workers who entered on temporary visas (mainly H-1Bs), often working in the tech sector.
These employers are mainly big tech and foreign outsourcing companies.
“Under current rules, citizens of India are getting about 25 per cent of all the professional employment Green Cards each year. If this bill becomes law, citizens of India will get more than 90 per cent of the professional employment Green Cards, according to the USCIS, for at least the next 10 years.
“Green cards would be unavailable to applicants from all other parts of the world (and many other occupations) for at least a decade,” alleged the Centre for Immigration Studies.
It argued that a bill with “such sweeping implications” for the US workers should not be passed without a hearing and without opportunity for members to offer amendments.
“Adopting a different Green Card selection system that chooses the most highly educated and skilled workers would eliminate the need for a per-country cap system, and would not reward the exploitative employers who thrive on the existing system,” it said.
Congressman Paul Gosar said this is another gift for big-tech companies at the expense of American workers and students.
“We should not allow” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass the bill without following the rules, he said, adding the bill has not had a hearing or markup.
First Published: Jul 09, 2019 12:08 IST