The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, which eliminates per-country caps on green cards.
Under current U.S. law, each country is limited to seven percent of all green cards for foreign workers. For example, if the total number of green cards issued to foreign workers for a fiscal year was 100,000, workers from a particular country like India could only receive 7,000 of them.
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act kills that notion. Conceptually, it’s designed to allow talented professionals to secure visas regardless of where they’re from. By removing per-country restrictions, it’s easy to see how Silicon Valley, which leans on immigration programs extensively to secure talent from India, would benefit by securing even more foreign-born talent.
Richard Burke, CEO of Envoy Global, which specializes in making the immigration and visa process smooth for companies, tells Dice: “Our customers are happy to see bi-partisan recognition and support for legislation attempting to modernize our immigration system, as they have long said they want to reduce the long wait times that foreign national talent from certain countries face. Against a backdrop of policy memos and increased government scrutiny, employers expect their foreign national headcount to increase or stay the same versus decrease in 2019.”
Peggy Smith, CEO of Worldwide ERC, adds: “Immigration policies that promote global employee mobility help employers build a solid workforce. So we’re encouraged by the passage of the High-Skilled Immigration Act: it offers employers more flexibility when deploying talent. It emphasizes skills at a time when we need to solve a deepening skills shortage. And it broadens options as to which of their employees, regardless of their current country, can potentially relocate to the U.S. Facilitating immigration to ease the movement of an entire global workforce is a continuing journey, and this is one of the forward steps along the way.”
A pragmatic view: The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act still needs to pass the Senate, and be signed into law by President Trump… who has expressed reservations about immigration programs in the past. However, Trump has also said that the United States should accept immigrants on the basis of talent and skills. He’s also suggested that H-1B visas could provide a route to full-on citizenship:
H1-B holders in the United States can rest assured that changes are soon coming which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship. We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the U.S.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2019
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, should it become law, is likely a first step toward broader adjustments to the U.S. visa system. Despite Trump’s attempts at immigration reform, we’re still missing the pieces that declare what “high-skilled” means in a more open, merit-based visa program (and how visas might be awarded).
Update: This article has been adjusted to note which visas are potentially affected by this bill.