The House of Representatives passed an immigration bill on November 29, 2011 that, if enacted into law, will eliminate the per-country numerical limitations for employment-based immigrant visas. The bill, entitled the “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act” (H.R. 3012), passed the House by a vote of 389-15.
Each year, approximately 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are made available to qualified applicants. The law currently imposes a per-country limit on the distribution of these visas; no more than 7 percent of available visas may be issued to natives of any one country in a given fiscal year. H.R. 3012 proposes to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act by eliminating the per-country percentage cap. As written, the bill would gradually phase out the per-county cap over a three year period, from 2012 to 2015.
If passed into law, H.R. 3012 will be most beneficial to Indian and Chinese employment-based immigrant visa applicants. Due to the high number of annual applicants from India and China, there are currently long backlogs in the second (EB-2) and third (EB-3) employment-based preference categories for these two countries. For example, USCIS is currently adjudicating EB-3 petitions filed on behalf of Indian beneficiaries with priority dates on or before August 1, 2002. This corresponds to a backlog of roughly nine years, although in reality the backlog could be much longer. If H.R. 3012 is signed into law, these backlogs would be reduced substantially.
H.R. 3012 will now be referred to the Senate where it will be sent to committee for review, debated, and voted upon. If the Senate amends the bill significantly, a conference committee composed of members of both chambers will be formed in an attempt to reconcile differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill. If the House and Senate approve the bill in identical form, it will be sent to the President for review. H.R. 3012 will only become law if the President signs it. Note that Congress can attempt to override a presidential veto of a bill, but doing so requires a 2/3 vote in each chamber.
Please refer back to the Stern & Curray news blog for updates on the status of H.R.3012. If H.R. 3012 becomes law, it is sure to garner major media attention.
Labels: Employment based permanent residency