The Equal Access to Green cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act of 2021 (H.R.3648) is a bipartisan piece of legislation which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 1, 2021. The goal is to eliminate the per-country limit for employment-based green cards and increase the per-country limit for family-sponsored green card petitions.
Current Per-Country Limits for Employment-Based Visas
Today, the Immigration and Nationality Act sets a limit of 7% per country for employment-based green cards. This means that out of the total 140,000 employment-based visas available each year, each country, no matter its total population, gets an allotted 9,800 visas.
This will obviously have a negative effect on countries with much larger populations. For example, India’s estimated 2020 population was 1.38 billion. Compare that to another country, like the Philippines, whose population in 2020 was nearing 110 million. Vastly different population sizes yet only 9,800 visas allocated to each one.
This results in a severe backlog of nationals waiting for a green card. According to EveryCRSReport.com, in March 2020 the U.S. had roughly 1 million foreign workers and their families who had been approved for, but were still waiting to receive, their permanent resident (green card) status. Nationals from large countries like India can end up waiting for decades to receive their long-awaited green card. The think tank further estimates that this backlog will double by fiscal year 2030.
The urgency to solve this problem is felt by employers as well, who are wishing to sponsor foreign talent for work in the U.S. at a rate which exceeds the number of available green cards each fiscal year.
Impact on Family-Sponsored Green Cards
The introduced EAGLE Act also increases the limit of family sponsored green cards from 7% to 15% per fiscal year.
Why the EAGLE Act Is Important
This proposed bill, if passed and signed into law, will potentially help U.S.-based employers hire talent based purely on merit, or the professional qualifications which make a foreign national a good fit for each specific job opening. This would be a “first come, first served” basis of granting green cards, unlike the current system which guarantees that a certain number of individuals can get a green card based on not just merit but also nationality.
Indian Nationals Are Most Affected
According to a March 2020 report published by the American libertarian think tank Cato Institute, “Skilled Indian workers make up 75 percent of the employment‐based backlog.” Furthermore, Cato highlights the unintentional but disproportionate discrimination against Indian employment-based green card hopefuls under the current per-country visa limit:
“The Indian EB-2 and EB-3 backlog is by far the longest, affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of skilled employees of U.S. businesses with advanced (EB-2) or bachelor’s (EB-3) degrees. Everyone in the current EB-2/EB-3 backlog originally applied during or after fiscal year 2009.”
According to NewsOnAir, “the basic framework for the issuance of immigrant visas was last updated in 1990.” This two-decade-old system is no longer optimal for dealing with a visa issuance backlog that keeps growing, making the need for immigration reform in this area a matter of great importance.
People’s lives are put on hold waiting for a green card that can mean freedom to work in the U.S. without the fear of going out of status. Until a green card is issued, even an approved petition can still mean uncertainty and instability for workers already here in the U.S. They must maintain valid employment with a sponsoring employer, as in the case of H-1B visa. But in the unfortunate case of termination, foreign employees may face a variety of unforeseen circumstances as they wait for their green card to be issued, sometimes for decades.
AILA Is Not Fully on Board with the EAGLE Act
The American Immigration Lawyer Association (AILA) fully supports the elimination of the per-country limitations for employment-based immigrants. The only hang up AILA has with the proposed EAGLE Act is the Association’s claim that “the EAGLE Act (H.R. 3648) does not strike the right balance of eliminating per-country limitations without adversely impacting others. Therefore, AILA does not support its passage and urges Congress to find an equitable solution for all individuals waiting for lawful permanent residence.”
Sam Shihab & Associates Can Help
If you are an immigrant with any questions or concerns regarding your immigration case, H-1B visas, green card applications, or any other legal matter, speak at once to an experienced Columbus immigration attorney. A good immigration lawyer can help you and your family with any immigration issues you face and defend you if you’re accused of violating immigration law.
Our immigration attorneys will review your forms and applications for thoroughness and accuracy. Immigration laws will continually change, but an experienced immigration attorney will always be able to give you the most up-to-date immigration advice you need.
Contact us today!