The House will soon vote on a bill to make it easier for legal immigrants to obtain immigrant visas, such as green cards. The bill, HR 3648, would raise the per-country cap for family-based green cards and eliminate the per-country annual cap for employment-based green cards.
The bill, dubbed the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act of 2021, will phase out the current 7% limit on employment-based immigrant visas. Many argue that the 7% limit contributed to the enormous backlogs of applicants from some nations. Roughly 95% of employment-based immigrants currently reside in the US on temporary visas while waiting for a visa number to become available.
This wait can take years to even decades, depending upon the specific country of origin. Instead of limiting green card issuance to immigrants based on birthplace, the EAGLE Act’s supporters argue it will allow employers to focus on merit. This new focus will benefit workers from high-demand countries, such as India and China. Immigrants from such countries often wait decades for a visa number to become available.
The bill has bipartisan support and could allow more highly skilled immigrants to obtain green cards. Should it pass, it would help employers get much-needed workers. Though many feel this issue is less controversial than others, it still faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
In 2019 and 2020, a similar set of bills called the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act passed through both the House and Senate. However, the Senate could not reconcile the bill with the House version before the congressional session ended.
The EAGLE Act is a compromise of the two previous bills. Like the bills passed in the House, it will phase out the 7% per-country cap. Furthermore, it would raise the cap for family-sponsored visas to 15%. However, like the version passed in the Senate, it would also prove a nine-year transition period. This transition would not exclude any countries as the 7% limit gets eliminated. It would also permit individuals that have waited in the backlog for at least two years to apply for a green card. However, this application would still await approval until a visa becomes available.
Currently, the bill’s future remains uncertain. Nevertheless, like the previous bill, which passed under unanimous consent in the Senate, the Act’s sponsor hopes to use the same process to fast-track it. However, should this prove impossible, the supporters may look to other means for passing the EAGLE Act.
This bill may be good news for employers looking to hire foreign-national workers. However, it is crucial to remember the increased paperwork challenges that come with these workers. Among these is Form I-9, which can grow more complex with the wide range of documentation these workers can present. Therefore, employers should consider investing in an electronic I-9 management system to simplify this process. This system can deliver step-by-step guidance through the I-9 process. It also ensures secure and convenient storage for forms and documentation.
Learn more about automating your employment eligibility verification and ensuring compliance with I-9 Compliance.