Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Kevin Cramer introduced the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act, a bill which will allow American employers to hire more immigrants based on their merit, regardless of their country of origin. Specifically, the EAGLE Act phases out the 7% per-country limit on employment-based immigrant visas and raises the 7% per-country limit on family-sponsored visas to 15%.
Last year 66,781 employment-based immigrant visas went unused despite many countries having qualified applicants, highlighting the inefficiency of a country of origin based limit on visas.
“Everyone is hurting for workers. Fixing our immigration system will help fix our workforce shortage and spur economic growth. Removing arbitrary caps based on where an immigrant is born should be part of the solution,” said Hickenlooper.
“It’s no secret our immigration system is broken and, given current workforce challenges, it’s high time to implement a skills-based immigration system. In North Dakota, we rely on thousands of highly-skilled immigrants, especially when it comes to rural healthcare and software developers. These individuals play an important role in our economy and our communities, but because of arbitrary per country caps, their legal status is constantly in jeopardy. Our bill fixes this issue by instituting a merit-based system regardless of their country of origin without increasing the number of employment-based visas we already allow,” said Cramer.
The employment-based visa system provides permanent residence (or “green cards”) to individuals whose work contributes to U.S. economic growth and enhances our competitive advantage. To qualify, a sponsoring employer generally must advertise and prove that they are unable to find a qualified U.S. worker to fill the position. Thus, although America’s employment-based visa system starts out as “merit-based,” what happens next has nothing to do with merit or skills—visas are allocated based on the intending immigrant’s country of birth.
Approximately 95% of employment-based immigrants currently live and work in the United States on temporary visas while waiting for a visa to become available. Some of these individuals remain in temporary status for many years, if not decades, because of the caps applied to their country of nationality. The new, phased-in system, established in the bipartisan EAGLE Act, would help ease the backlog for those who wait the longest.
Specifically, the EAGLE Act:
- includes a longer nine-year transition period to ensure that no countries are excluded from receiving visas while the per-country caps are phased out;
- strengthens the H-1B temporary visa program; and
- provides an option for individuals who have been waiting in the immigrant visa backlog for two years to file a green card application, although the application cannot be approved until a visa becomes available.