House passes bill to remove per-country limits on green cards

11 Jul 19

UNITED STATES

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would remove the 7% per-country cap on employment-based green cards. The “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act,” H.R. 1044, passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 365-65.

Key points:

  • The measure would benefit skilled immigrants from populous countries, primarily India and China, who would see a faster path to permanent residency. Today, Indian and Chinese nationals typically wait 10 years or more for a green card.
  • The House bill would eliminate the current cap that limits any one country from consuming more than 7% of the 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas issued each fiscal year. The House bill would also increase the 7% cap on family-based green cards to 15%.
  • The Senate version of the legislation, S. 386, is currently stalled.

Background: The sponsor of the House bill, Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who has introduced the measure repeatedly since 2011, said after the vote that the bill would “provide relief to individuals who’ve waited patiently for a green card for years, if not decades, while they continue to work and contribute to our economy.”

Prospects in the Senate are uncertain. Last week, the Senate bill appeared headed for a vote after Mike Lee, R-Utah, reached a compromise with Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who had initially opposed the bill, by adding an amendment that would give the Labor Department new enforcement measures against H-1B employers. The bill was blocked, however, by Rand Paul, R-Ky., over an amendment he proposed that would create an exemption for foreign nurses.

BAL Analysis: The House vote is a promising sign of support for easing the green card backlog. The measure was able to gain bipartisan support in part because it would not increase overall green card numbers but would merely shift allocation of current immigrant visas. It is unclear, however, whether the Senate will debate or pass the measure and, if it does, whether President Donald Trump will sign it.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@balglobal.com.

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