Country Cap on Green Cards Should be Lifted, Says Top U.S Politician

“There is no good reason to force a worker from a large country to wait longer to obtain a green card simply because he or she happens to come from a large country," Utah Senator Orrin Hatch said.


A top U.S lawmaker has called for lifting the country cap on green cards, citing the case of tens of thousands of Indian professionals waiting for permanent legal residency in the United States. Senator Orrin Hatch said on May 22 that the cap on the number of employment-based green cards that can be issued each year to a country is partly responsible for the huge green card backlog, PTI reported.

Hatch, president of Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate and chairman of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force, pointed out that this rule means that individuals from small countries with relatively few emigrants to the United Stats face relatively short green card delays, while individuals from large countries like India and China face decades-long delays.

“There is no good reason to force a worker from a large country to wait longer to obtain a green card simply because he or she happens to come from a large country. We should care about skills, not country of origin,” Hatch said at an event hosted by Compete America on May 22.

“The result is that individuals from large countries who come to the United States on temporary worker visas end up stuck in limbo for many years, unable to change jobs or seek advancement for fear of losing their place in the green card line,” he said.

Hatch also spoke about the issues that pose hurdles in the process of transition from a temporary worker visa to an employment-based green card. To petition for a green card employee, an employer must satisfy certain labor market tests. As per the existing law, even after the tests, the employee cannot file for adjustment of status until a green card number becomes available.

“This has the practical effect of preventing individuals here on temporary worker visas from changing jobs until a green card number becomes available, because a person who changes jobs before filing for adjustment of status loses his or her place in the green card line,” the Republican leader was quoted as saying.

The long green card backlog for individuals from countries like India or China means that workers on temporary worker visas who wish to transition to lawful permanent resident status remain stuck in the same job for years on end. “This creates a power imbalance between employer and employee that can lead to below-market wages and sub-par working conditions. It’s a real problem,” Hatch said.

The Utah senator has also moved the I-Squared Act over this issue in the Senate. Introduced by Hatch along with Senator Jeff Flake earlier this year, the Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act of 2018 provides work authorization for spouses and dependent children of H-1B visa holders. It also establishes a grace period during which H-1B visa holders can change jobs without losing legal status.

“First, it would eliminate the per-country cap on employment-based (EB) green cards,” Hatch said about the I-Squared Act. “Second, it would allow individuals on the path to a green card to file for adjustment of status once their employer has satisfied the labor market tests and obtained an approved immigrant petition.”

More than one million highly educated people and their families are currently waiting for green cards, according to an estimate by Kauffman Foundation, the report added. Only 140,000 EB green cards are available annually, a cap set by the Congress in 1990.

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