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Bill Aimed at Streamlining the Immigration Process for Highly-Skilled Workers Meets with Controversy

January 25, 2012

BuildingHighly-skilled workers may immigrate to the United States with an EB visa, which offers them a path to permanent residence and perhaps citizenship. Workers already present in the U.S. with a temporary work visa, such as an H-1B, may also qualify to obtain a green card. Current U.S. immigration law only allows issuance of 140,000 green cards to people with temporary work visas. Additionally, every year immigration authorities can only grant seven percent of the total number of EB visas to applicants from any one country. This means that applicants from countries with few total applications may receive a visa quickly, while applicants from high-volume countries may wait years for approval.

A bill introduced in Congress last year, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, would remove the numerical caps on individual countries, significantly reducing the wait time for applicants from high-volume or “oversubscribed” countries like India. The bill passed the House of Representatives in November on a vote of 389 to 15, but it has stalled in the Senate. Critics point out that, while it may reduce wait times for applicants from some countries, in so doing it may substantially increase the wait time for others. It could potentially even exclude entire countries with low application rates. Critics also contend that the bill fails to provide for U.S. citizens who may also want high-tech jobs in a period of high unemployment.

The Washington Post profiled a couple living in suburban Washington, DC who came here from India seven years ago on temporary worker visas. Both work in high-tech jobs and have applied for permanent residence. Because of the high volume of applications from Indian nationals, they continue to wait. Under the terms of their temporary worker visas, they cannot change jobs or make significant changes to their living situations, and they must renew their visas every two years. They, and many other immigrants from countries like India and the Philippines, must live in a sort of suspended state while they wait for their applications to come up through the backlog.

The new bill would effectively eliminate the quota system established by current law. This could substantially benefit applicants from those large-volume countries, but applicants from lower-volume countries are less enthusiastic. The Post quotes an electrical engineer from Bangladesh, a country with far fewer visa applicants than neighboring India. He worries that the law would allow Indian applicants to “cut in line” in front of him, extending his wait time.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa stalled the bill in the Senate by attaching amendments, which could add months more of debate on the bill. He expressed concern that the bill did nothing to help “Americans at home seeking high-skilled jobs” in the midst of high unemployment. This argument may miss the mark in terms of seriously addressing employment concerns. To even qualify for many work-related visas, an employer must certify to the Department of Labor that it has searched for a suitable employee among American citizens and authorized workers already present here. This would suggest that immigrants arriving with highly-skilled work visas are not taking jobs from Americans at all. It is only left to the various visa applicants, then, to compete for the available visas each year.

Ohio immigration visa lawyer Gus Shihab represents employers seeking to employ immigrant workers and job seekers who wish to come here to work. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us online or at 877-479-4USA (4872).

More Blog Posts

USCIS’s “Self Check” Program Will Soon Go Nationwide, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, December 27, 2011

Department Of State Makes Predictions Regarding EB-2 and EB-3 Priority Dates For India and China, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, December 5, 2011

H-1B Visa Cap Reached Today, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, November 23, 2011

Photo credit: MAC 4 by mterraza on stock.xchng.

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