On Wednesday, the US Senate unanimously passed bill S.386, also known as the ‘Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act,’ which, if approved by the House and signed by the President, could change the timeline and backlog for thousands waiting for a green card.
The ‘Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act’ ends the 7% country cap for employment-based immigrant visas and increases the per-country cap on family-based immigrant visas from 7% to 15%. The visa program cap of 140,000 visas per year will not change.
S.386 differs from the earlier passed House bill by adding more provisions to protect American workers and encourage American-first hiring. In years 0-9 of the S.386 implementation, no more than 70% of the green cards may go to H-1B visa holders or dependents. Following year 9, this decreases to 50%. The exception to this is for those applicants in the medical field or with national interest waivers. Further, 50:50 companies will not be able to bring on additional H-1B employees into the US.
The approval of S.386 would significantly impact the green card backlog for Indian foreign nationals, who make up nearly 70% of the total green card backlog. In the spring, the CATO Institute reported that the backlog for India would take 89 years to resolve.
The unanimous vote was presided over by Senator Kevin Cramer, an original sponsor of the bill. In a series of Tweets, Senator Cramer reflected on his state, noting that “North Dakota is home to thousands of hard-working immigrants who bridge the gap between our workforce shortage and our immediate need for physicians, software developers, and other highly-skilled workers… but because of arbitrary per-country caps, their legal status is constantly in jeopardy.”
Proponents of the bill cite its passage as a win for all American workers. The nonprofit Immigration Voice’s President Aman Kapoor said about the bill, “It will grow our economy by allowing highly skilled immigrants to start their own companies and will make sure that these new companies hire American workers who are made more attractive by this bill.”
The Senate bill has significant differences from the House bill. The two bills will need to be reconciled into a final bill to then pass in the House of Representatives and the Senate again. Then, the final bill will need to be approved by the President.
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