An influential American lawmaker has called for removal of country-specific quotas for legal permanent residency, also known as green cards, in the U.S. Congressman Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., who July 11 became the lead sponsor of the previous Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, argued that the existing country-specific quota for green cards is unjust for people from countries like India and China.
A Pew Research report released this week said that the average wait time for an Indian technology professional or those seeking green cards under the employment category is more than 12 years.
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act was previously introduced by former-Rep. Jason Chaffetz, with Yoder as an original cosponsor. Currently, 230 Members of Congress have signed on as cosponsors of the bill, with more than 100 members from each party in support.
The Act reforms the legal immigration system by eliminating the existing, arbitrary per-country percentage caps that have caused backlogs in the employment-based green card system, he said. “Under the existing per-country percentage caps, large nations like India and China, which account for more than 40 percent of the world’s population, receive the same amount of visas as Greenland, a country that accounts for one-one thousandth of a percent of the world’s population,” he said.
“With about 95 percent of the employment-based green card applicants already living and working in America on temporary visas, the vast majority of applicants are simply waiting in line to get approved for permanent residence. But high-skilled immigrants from large countries are forced to wait two to three times longer under existing law,” Yoder said.
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act would correct this problem and leave in place a system where all equally-qualified, highly-skilled employees will receive green cards in the order they apply and based solely on the skills they are bringing to America, he explained.
Asserting that the United States is a nation of immigrants, as well as a nation of laws, Yoder said this legislation strikes the perfect balance by achieving significant reforms of the employment-based green card system, helping American companies hire high-skilled immigrants to help grow the American economy. “Importantly, our bill helps them do it through the proper legal channels – the right way – which are all too often forgotten in debates over border security and illegal immigration,” he said.
“And it helps the many immigrants who are already living and working here on temporary visas obtain permanent residence they’ve earned through hard work and dedication to our country and its values, raising their families and children as Americans right here in our communities,” Yoder added.
The Pew Research report noted that India is among the top countries whose residents get green cards every year. In 2015, about 36,318 Indians adjusted their status to permanent residency while 27,798 Indians are new arrivals who received lawful permanent residency in the form of a green card, Pew Research said.
“In one employment-related category, people from India applying for permanent residence as skilled employees currently have a 12-year waiting list. In other words, the government currently is processing applications filed in May of 2005,” the report said.
Pew said from fiscal years 2010 to 2014, about 36 percent of employment-related green cards, more than 222,000, were granted to H-1B visa holders. A green card holder can apply for U.S. citizenship after five years of residency. This period is shortened to three years if married to a U.S. citizen
Green card holders who adjusted their status are more likely than new arrivals to be in their prime working years of 25 to 64. Among those who adjusted their status, 72 percent were of ages 25 to 64, compared with 55 percent of new arrivals, the research report said.
According to the study, in every fiscal year since 2004, the U.S. has issued more green cards to immigrants living in the country on another visa who adjust their legal status (7.4 million) than to new arrivals (5.5 million).