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Hickenlooper, Cramer Introduce Legislation to Phase Out Country Caps on Employment-Based Visas, Fill Gaps in Workforce

Nov 16, 2023

Wait times for employment-based visas can stretch years, decades

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Kevin Cramer recently introduced a bill making it easier for American employers to hire immigrants to fill critical workforce gaps, regardless of their country of origin. The EAGLE Act would phase out the 7 percent per-country limit on employment-based immigrant visas and raise the 7 percent per-country limit on family-sponsored visas to 15 percent. Senators Baldwin and Collins joined as original cosponsors. 

“Arbitrary caps on employment-based visas are holding back our economy when so many industries are hurting for workers,” said Hickenlooper. “This bill is a commonsense fix to our immigration system that will reduce visa backlogs, and fill gaps in our workforce.” 

“In rural states like North Dakota, highly skilled immigrant doctors and nurses play a critical role in our healthcare workforce, sometimes providing the only specialty care available in the area,” said Cramer. “Per-country caps are nonsensical, and it’s past time our immigration policies reflected a skills-based approach.”

Most prospective employment-based immigrants currently live and work in America on temporary visas while waiting for a long-term visa to become available. As a result, many individuals remain in temporary status for 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 this backlog. 

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,” visa allocation depends heavily on the intended immigrant’s country of birth.

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.

Full text of the bill is available HERE.


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