Wednesday, April 09, 2008



Per-Country Limits Make No Sense


Certain skilled foreign nationals who are eligible for permanent residence (green cards) are unable to complete processing of their applications simply because of their country of origin. Current immigration law imposes limits on the number of employment-based immigrants who can come from any single foreign country, without regard to their skills or the ways they can benefit the United States. Because of this limitation, backlogs in certain categories can mean waits of several years before these skilled immigrants can take up the positions for which a U.S. employer has sponsored them. Some of these individuals already are in the country working for their employers, but when their temporary status expires will have to leave the country, and their jobs.


Per-country limits have not always existed. Until 1986, no per-country limits applied to any country in employment-based categories. Under current law, no more than 9,800 visas can be issued to employment-based immigrants (including their spouses and children) from any single country. The quota bears no relation to demand: countries with large populations or a large number of emigrants have the same quota as countries with small populations or low emigration rates.

The backlogs are a recent phenomenon.

The high-tech boom has led to an increase in the number of employment-based applicants, particularly from India and China, resulting in these backlogs. However, while persons from those countries have to wait in long lines, more than 20,000 visas under the overall employment-based cap went unused last fiscal year, since many countries never come close to using up their annual allotment.

Per-country limits restrict competition.

Because of the long waiting times, employers and the U.S. cannot benefit from the skills these immigrants offer, simply because of the accident of their location of birth. This limitation flies in the face of the U.S. policy to bring the best skills and talents of the world to this country. Further, because many of these potential immigrants decide to take jobs in other countries instead of waiting, the United States is placed at a competitive disadvantage.

Per-country limits have resulted in absurd situations.

Some foreign nationals in the backlog have qualified to immigrate because they have skills and abilities that "will substantially benefit the United States" and are "in the national interest." Even though the INS has certified their potential value to the United States, these individuals still must wait years before they can get their green cards. In addition, foreign nationals waiting their turn include persons that will hold jobs for which the Government has certified there are no U.S. workers available, requiring employers to go without needed employees for long periods of time.

CURRENT STATUS: The Senate-passed version of the H-1B bill originally included a provision that would have allowed employment-based immigrants to obtain their green cards without regard to the per-country limits as long as there were unused visas available in their category. However, the final compromise measure that was signed into law did not include this provision

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