Sen. Paul Blocks Merit-Based Immigration

As it stands now, the US immigration system permits only 7% of employment-based green cards to go immigrants from any one country. The system creates long wait times and hinders employers.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, introduced in February, would remove the per-country limits in the employment-based green card system and move towards a merit-based system, something president Trump has advocated for. The Bill would also increase the per-country cap on family-based immigrant visas from 7% of the total number of visas available that year to 15%. The Bill provides for a transition period (FY2020-FY2022) so that those who have waited for a green card are not pushed to the back of the line.

The immigration system, as is, discriminates against green card applicants from countries with large populations. In the most recent Visa Bulletin, 2nd preference green card applicants from India have almost a ten year wait time. (The 2nd preference category is for members of the professions holding advanced degrees or persons of exceptional ability.) In addition, according to a National Foundation for American Policy Brief, a highly skilled Indian national could theoretically wait 70 years for a 3rd preference green card.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act is designed to reduce these wait times and ensure that the most skilled immigrants get green cards. Congresswoman Haley Stevens (M1-11), a co-sponsor of the Bill, argues that the wait times are hurting the economy and stifling innovation.

Laura D. Francis recently reported that Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) teamed up to include in the legislation provisions related to the oversight and enforcement of the H-1B program, which seemed to be a step towards the Bill becoming law. However, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) then introduced an amendment to the Bill that would create a visa carve-out for nurses. The Bill in its current form would likely create long wait times for nurses to get employment-based green cards (7-8 years) and nurses are not eligible for H-1B visas while they wait. The concern is that once there is a carve out for one profession; advocacy groups and lobbyists of other professions will push for similar treatment. Therefore, the amendment will be met with contention and likely be a roadblock.

The senate version of the bill has 34 co-sponsors while the house version has 311 co-sponsors. Both bills have sponsors on both sides of the aisle. The House Bill does not contain any H-1B language.

We will keep you updated as the Bill moves through Congress.