A group of influential US lawmakers has introduced a bill in Congress to recapture nearly 380,000 unused family and employment-based visas to reduce a massive Green Card backlog, a move which could benefit thousands of highly-skilled IT professionals from India.
A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently.
As per a 2020 report, the backlog for an Indian national to get permanent residency or Green Card is more than 195 years.
The Jumpstart Our Legal Immigration System Act, introduced by House Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren, proposes to recapture about 222,000 unused family-sponsored visas and about 157,000 employment-based visas.
Among other things, it would allow immigrant US residents eligible for adjustment to Legal Permanent Residence (LPR) status to apply for adjustment after paying a fee but are not able to do so presently due to the lack of an available visa number.
In a major boost to a large number of Indians, this will allow them to receive work authorisation while they wait for a visa number to become available and will prevent dependent children from aging out of eligibility for the LPR status.
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 Card or permanent legal residency.
The H-1B visa, the most sought after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
The legislation also seeks to allow immigrants in the US to receive an exemption from the immigrant visa numerical limits and adjust their status to a green card if their immigrant visa petition has been approved for two years and they pay a supplemental fee.
Its co-sponsors are House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler and Congresswoman Judy Chu and Congressman Ritchie Torres.
We all know that our immigration system is dysfunctional and it has been in dire need of reform for decades, said Lofgren.
The basic framework for allocating immigrant visas dates back to the middle of the 20th century and was updated last seriously in 1990 when Congress established the worldwide numerical limits on visas and the 7 per cent per-country cap that still exists today. Over time, these limitations have led to backlogs that were unimaginable in 1990, she said.
The Act will help reduce the backlogs, thereby enabling immigrants to fully contribute to their communities and our national economy, while also allowing the US companies to attract and retain high-skilled workers. That will enhance our country’s competitive advantage and our position as a global leader in innovation, she said.
Nadler said: By restoring the availability of immigrant visas lost due to COVID-19 or bureaucratic delay and enhancing green card processing, we are investing in our families and the US businesses.
Our immigration system is in desperate need of reform and this legislation is a vital step in the right direction… the Act will recapture some 400,000 family- and employment-based visas, create an accelerated path to adjustment of status for those already here and give much needed funds to US Citizenship and Immigration Services to improve visa processing.
Congresswoman Chu said that there are over four million people in the family immigration backlogs waiting to be reunited with their loved ones.
Recapturing unused visas that were lost to delays and bureaucracy would help ease the already burdensome backlogs for immigrant families and workers, Chu said.
Congressman Torres said the legislation will begin to address the visa backlog that has prevented hundreds-of-thousands family- and employment-based visas to enter the US, while also providing relief for diversity visa winners impacted by the Trump travel ban.
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