On November 29, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 3012). The bill eliminates the per-country numerical limitation on employment-based green card numbers by FY 2015. The bill also increases family-based visa limits from 7% per country to 15% per country.
Under current law, the total number of employment-based immigrant visas made available to natives of any foreign country in a given year cannot exceed 7% of the total number of such visas made available in that year. H.R. 3012 eliminates this per-country percentage cap.
If enacted into law, the green card wait times for employment-based immigrants from high-volume user countries, such as China and India, would be reduced. Concomitantly, slower processing for natives of all countries seems likely.
The bill still must pass the U.S. Senate and be signed into law by the President. Most recently, on December 1, 2011, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, placed a hold on the bill, raising concerns about its impact on future immigration. Ogletree Deakins is continuing to monitor developments with respect to this legislation in the Senate.
Companies should be aware that, if H.R. 3012 becomes law, the elimination of per-country numerical limitations will make immigrant visas immediately available for nationals of China and India in categories that are currently backlogged. H.R. 3012 also will create backlogs for natives of other countries whose visa numbers are current at this time. Companies that intend to sponsor foreign nationals from a non-high-volume user country should move forward as soon as possible to preserve a favorable priority date.