The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2011 was one of the very few bills in recent years that passed the House of Representatives branch of the US Congress in a bipartisan manner. With a vote of 389 – 15, the major focus of the bill is to remove the nationality caps of the Employment Based Visa Green Cards like the EB2 and EB3 Visas which are used most often by people who are currently working in the US on H1B visas, E3 Visas and L1 Visas to gain Permanent Residency in the US.
Currently there are about 140,000 EB Green Card Visas issued each year and only a maximum of 7% can be issued to any one nationality annually. What that has meant in practice for the EB2 and EB3 categories is that b/c of the sheer number of Indian and Chinese applicants in particular, that there is a large backlog of waiting lists of people working in the US in limbo not being able to move up or on in their jobs, passing up promotions and better offers, etc. waiting for their visa number in the queue to be called.
For the EB2 category it is about a 4-6 year wait for Indians and Chinese and in the EB3 category that goes up to 10 years and beyond. Of course if the nationality cap is removed then many citizens from other countries in both these categories who had jumped ahead in the queue b/c of these limits may have to wait a bit longer.
Sadly each year many of the 140,000 green card visas go to waste with people who have abandoned their application and returned home or moved elsewhere and b/c of the nature of the law these are wasted for good. If all the green card visas that had been wasted over the last few years had allowed to be reused (so not increasing any caps just using what was already authorized by the US Congress), then the entire current backlog for EB2 and EB3 would be removed for all nations. This actually has been done once before in the early 2000s but such a “radical” or more correctly logical move would seen to be too hard in today’s politically charged, cable news driven, extreme partisan US Immigration landscape.
The startling part of this so far is that it was able to pass with such overwhelming support from Conservative and Tea Party backed Republicans and Liberal and Most Left Leaning Democrats alike. The major premise is so that the US retains high skilled talent to help grow the economy and create jobs. According to Bloomberg, only 15% of visas are granted for economic reasons, a policy that undermines U.S. companies competing in a global talent pool.
Then foreign students studying in the US account for the majority of computer science and engineering doctorates earned from U.S. institutions. (In 2006, more than 4,500 foreign students earned engineering Ph.D.’s in the U.S., almost two-thirds of the total.) There is no policy or incentivized scheme to get them to stay in the U.S. after graduation given that these immigrants have a much higher propensity to create new businesses. We have mentioned before the Duke University study found that foreign immigrants helped found more than a quarter of the technology and engineering companies established in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005 (inc. Google, Yahoo, Paypal, etc.) so a huge amount of jobs and wealth for the US and her citizens.
However there is a roadblock!
One of our “favorite” politicians, Senator Charles (Chuck) Grassley, a Republican from Iowa placed a hold on the bill now it has reach the Senate. Even though it is expected to have broad support in the Upper House of the US Congress, it is now effectively in limbo due to the actions of one Senator for reasons that are not quite clear and that he has not fully expressed. Of course Iowa whose economy is still heavily influenced by Agriculture is not really a mecca for driving US innovation and wealth and nor is it a massive location for foreign highly skilled immigrants to reside, so really this bill would have very little effect if anything there.
However Senator Grassley seemingly unilaterally has put everything on hold possibly because of an earlier 2009 H1B and L1 Visa reform bill he put before Congress with Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois which thankfully has not gone anywhere as would be a major dent in the US economy.
We hope sanity prevails as it has in the House branch of the US Congress but I certainly would not be getting to excited as with the December – January Congress recess coming up and 2012 being a Presidential election year and where partisan politics is at its peak, anything getting done sometimes is a miracle.