House Appropriations Committee Approves Bi-Partisan Bill Aimed at Reducing Green Card Backlogs

Tied to funding for other key immigration initiatives, the bill has a chance of success.

Update: On Wednesday, an immigration proposal Forbes called “The Most Popular Bill in Congress” was integrated into the House version of the FY2019 Homeland Security Funding Bill, which was approved by committee and referred to the full House of Representatives for a vote. The bill, if it becomes law as written, would greatly reduce the current green card backlog impacting Indian and Chinese nationals. According to the official summary by the Congressional Research Service: This bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to: (1) eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants [within 3 years, after a short transition period], and (2) increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-based immigrants from 7% to 15% of the total number of family-sponsored visas.

Analysis: While the annual numerical limit on employment-based immigrant visas (green cards) would remain at 140,000, the per-country limit (currently 7%) would be eliminated. In other words, under the current system, a maximum of 9,800 employment-based green cards are available to Indian applicants each year (with the same number available to Chinese citizens). Under this proposed scheme, if approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President, there would be no country-specific limits. By successfully tying the bill to an appropriations bill that includes US$5 Billion for the border wall, this bill is more likely to receive a vote on the House floor than if it had been sponsored as independent legislation.

Impact: Theoretically, if this bill becomes law, once fully phased-in we could see a year where green cards are allocated in a way that more closely aligns with recent trends in demand for H-1B visas, with about 74% going to Indian applicants, 10% going to Chinese applicants, and 16% going to applicants from other countries. While citizens of some countries may see an increase in visa processing times under this scheme, wait times overall would likely be greatly reduced.