On Tuesday, April 16, 2013 Senate sponsors of new immigration legislation released a 17 page outline of the new proposal. The outline covers such subjects as Border Security, Legalization, Legal Immigration, Employment Verification, Temporary Visas, a new W Visa Program for Lower Skilled Workers, and AgJobs.
This article will focus only on what we know about the legal immigration reform component of the legislation.
The proposed legislation will shift the focus from family based immigration to employment based immigration by implementing the following changes:
- Converting spouses and children of green card holders to “immediate relative” classification (quota exempt).
- Elimination of the present family fourth preference (siblings) category within 18 months.
- Restricting the present family based third preference (married children of U.S. citizens) to those who are under 31 years of age.
- Eliminating the Diversity Visa program after fiscal year 2014.
- No longer counting employment based first preference applicants against the EB quota.
- No longer counting anyone with a doctorate against the EB quota.
- Allowing U.S. advanced degree STEM graduates who received their degrees in the last five years to immigrate without a labor certification.
- EB2 and EB3 quotas will rise from 40,000 each to 56,000 each.
- EB dependents will no longer be counted against the EB quota.
- Creation of a new visa category for entrepreneurs who start up their own companies.
The government uses a multiplier of 2.1 to estimate the total number of EB immigrant visas used for each approved I-140. By no longer counting dependents against the EB quota, these changes are the equivalent of converting the present EB2 and EB3 quotas to approximately 117,000 each (235,000 combined).
Though not mentioned in the summary, it is our understanding that this legislation will also eliminate the 7% per country limit for employment based application. This means that the monthly Visa Bulletin will have only one column – Worldwide.
No mention was made in the summary about visa recapture, but we are also informed that it is included as well. If so, then the combination of visa recapture, elimination of counting dependents, and quota expansion should result in all EB preference categories becoming “current” by the end of this year.
In addition to these reforms, the Senate proposal would also create a “Merit Based Visa” system starting October 1, 2014. The summary is a bit unclear as to how this will work, but it appears that EB applicants who have been waiting at least three years and FB applicants who have been waiting at least five years would be eligible to immigrate under this separate program. Included in this group would also be “long term alien workers” (individuals who have been working in the U.S. continuously for at least ten years.
Between 2015 and 2021, this merit based program is supposed to eliminate the remaining family based and employment based backlogs. Precisely how is not spelled out in the summary.
We expect to see the actual text of the proposed legislation shortly and in our next article, we will begin a detailed analysis of the new provisions.