Legislation that will have a positive direct impact on Indian nationals passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 29. The vote was an overwhelming 389 to 15.
HR 3012, “The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act,” would eliminate the per country limit for employment-based immigrants in a transition over a four-year period. The primary effect of the bill would be to shorten the wait times substantially for highly educated foreign nationals from India and China. The part of the Immigration and Nationality Act that limits nationals of any one country to 7 percent of the total employment-based immigrants in a year will be removed the law books. In addition, by raising the family per country limit from 7 percent to 15 percent it would also help long-waiting family-sponsored immigrants from Mexico and the Philippines.
The House Floor
Speaking in favor of the bill on the House floor, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the chief sponsor of the bill, emphasized that the legislation provided no new green cards. He said the measure was necessary to have the law match the way employers in America hire – based on merit, not country of origin.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) also spoke in favor of the bill. He emphasized the long wait times, pointing out that some nationals from India in the employment-based third preference (EB-3) had been waiting since 2002 for green cards. In support of the bill, Rep. Smith asked: “Why should American employers who seek green cards for skilled foreign workers have to wait longer just because the workers are from India or China?”
On the Democratic side, Representatives Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Jim Moran of Virginia spoke in favor of the bill. (No one spoke against the bill.) Rep. Moran talked about the importance of skilled immigration generally to jobs and business development in Northern Virginia.
Prospects in the Senate
The passage of the bill in the House gave bill supporters new information about the chances for the legislation to move in the Senate. The New York Times reported, “The bill seemed likely to pass easily in the Senate, said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, a leading Democrat on immigration.”
Explaining the implications of the bill, The New York Times noted, “By far, the main beneficiaries will be highly skilled immigrants from India and China, including many with master’s degrees and doctorates in science and engineering. Because they come from populous countries that send many people to work here who have advanced science and technology skills, immigrants from those two nations had been forced by the country limits into lines that were many years long and growing much longer.”
An Associated Press article also quoted Senator Schumer, the chair of subcommittee that handles immigration in the Senate Judiciary Committee, who is favorably disposed toward the bill: “Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who heads the Senate Judiciary panel on immigration, said he planned to move the bill as quickly as possible in the Senate, ‘where we expect it to find overwhelming support.’ He said the legislation would ‘remove outdated constraints that prevent us from attracting the kind of innovators who can create job growth in America.’”
An analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy concluded that passing H.R. 3012 would reduce the wait for a newly sponsored foreign national from India in the employment-based third preference (EB-3) to 12 years, far less than the potential wait of several decades under current law. In the employment-based second preference (EB-2), the wait would drop to two or three years, rather than the current 6 years or more for a newly sponsored Indian-born scientist, researcher or engineer sponsored in that category.