Arguing the case of tens of thousands of Indian professionals waiting for their permanent legal residency, a top American lawmaker has called for lifting country-cap on Green Card, saying the existing system creates a power imbalance between employer and employee. Senator Orrin Hatch, president of Pro Tempore of the US Senate and Chairman of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force, said the Green Card backlog was driven in part by the American laws that cap the number of employment-based green cards that can be issued each year to a given country. This means that individuals from small countries with relatively few emigrants to the US face relatively short green card delays, while individuals from large countries like India and China face decades-long delays, he said at an event hosted by Compete America yesterday.
“There is no good reason to force a worker from a large country to wait longer to obtain a green card simply because he or she happens to come from a large country. We should care about skills, not country of origin,” Hatch said. “The result is that individuals from large countries who come to the US on temporary worker visas end up stuck in limbo for many years, unable to change jobs or seek advancement for fear of losing their place in the green card line,” he said. Hatch said another problem was the process for transitioning from a temporary worker visa to an employment-based green card. There are certain labour market tests that an employer must satisfy in order to successfully petition for a green card for an employee. Under current law, even after satisfying these tests, the employee cannot file for adjustment of status until a green card number becomes available, he noted. “This has the practical effect of preventing individuals here on temporary worker visas from changing jobs until a green card number becomes available, because a person who changes jobs before filing for adjustment of status loses his or her place in the green card line,” Hatch said.
Combined with the decades-long green card backlog for individuals from large countries like India or China, this means that workers here on temporary worker visas who wish to transition to lawful permanent resident status may be stuck in the same job for years on end, the top Republican Senator said. “This creates a power imbalance between employer and employee that can lead to below-market wages and subpar working conditions. It’s a real problem,” said Hatch, who has moved I-Squad Act in this regard in the Senate. The I-Squared Act, would solve both of these problems, he told the audience. Introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake, the Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act of 2018 provides work authorisation for spouses and dependent children of H-1B visa holders and establishes a grace period during which H-1B visa holders can change jobs without losing legal status.
“First, it would eliminate the per-country cap on employment-based (EB) green cards. Second, it would allow individuals on the path to a green card to file for adjustment of status once their employer has satisfied the labour market tests and obtained an approved immigrant petition,” he said. A study by the Kauffman Foundation estimated that more than one million highly educated people and their families are currently waiting for green cards, yet only 140,000 EB green cards are available annually, a cap Congress set in 1990. While EB green card applicants wait, they are limited in seeking promotions or being transferred to another city, and they risk longer delays if they change jobs because they go back to the end of the line. This professional limbo can be made worse because their foreign—born spouses are often not permitted to work in the United States, Compete America says. According to Compete America, in the last 15 years, immigrants have started 25 percent of US venture—backed public companies. Major U.S. employers such as Intel, eBay, Yahoo! and Google were all founded, at least in part, by foreign nationals.