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The EAGLE Act May Remove Green Card Limits

Annie Erling Gofus - Dec 13 2022
Published in: Public Policy

H.R. 3648 has substantial bipartisan support.

For over a week, the EAGLE Act (H.R. 3648) had been on the calendar for consideration on the House floor. The bill would remove the 7% cap on the number of U.S. green cards that can be issued to nationals from any one country each year. On 6 December, the House passed the rule (H.Res. 1508) for consideration of H.R. 3648 by a vote of 215 to 201, but the bipartisan bill should have passed by a much wider margin. Outside groups recently voiced concerns with the bill, which led to all Republicans voting against the rule and some Democrats taking issue with it. With its passage in question, House Democratic leaders have now postponed proceedings on the bill likely through the end of the year.

The Equal Access to Green cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act of 2022 (H.R. 3648) is a proposed bill that seeks to remove the per-country restriction on employment green cards, while also increasing the yearly limit of family-based green cards. This week, the House has put this bipartisan-backed legislation with strong support from tech and employer groups back on its tentative schedule.

The limitations on green cards have caused a tremendous surge in green card application backlogs, most notably from China and India, two highly populated nations that have an abundance of experienced workers that U.S. companies are eager to hire.

Immigrants frequently experience long, drawn-out waits for green cards that can extend into decades and even a lifetime. An Indian immigrant could be stuck waiting in line for a staggering 90 years. Alarmingly, it is predicted that at least 200,000 Indian immigrants will never receive a green card before they perish while still in the queue.

According to U.S. law, only a maximum of 7% of green cards may be issued to citizens from any one country. Every year, a limited number of green cards—9,800 to be exact—can be granted to applicants from India out of the total 140,000 issued. For citizens from a nation with a relatively small population, the process of obtaining and being granted an American green card will be made much simpler. Unfortunately, the wait times for citizens from a country with an extensive population may be longer than expected.

The EAGLE Act has the capability to reduce waiting times for immigration without increasing the total number of immigrants. Rather than a 7% per-country limit, this legislation permits up to 15% of green cards to be given out among people from the same nation.

Along with removing the per-country restrictions, this bill would also provide a nine-year transition period for the EB-2 and EB-3 visas. The EAGLE Act would dedicate a portion of EB-2 and EB-3 visas to people from countries other than the two with the highest numbers of recipients. Furthermore, it will also allocate visas for professional nurses and physical therapists.

The EAGLE Act would impose new requirements on an employer seeking an H-1B visa. For instance, employers may not post job advertisements indicating that a sole H-1B applicant is required or preferred. This bill would disallow certain employers from employing more than 50% of their staff as nonimmigrant visa holders.

H.R. 3648 mandates the Department of Labor (DOL) to create a publicly accessible website where employers searching for an H-1B visa must provide details about the available job opportunities. The bill would grant the DOL enhanced authority, so it would be able to thoroughly review and investigate H-1B applications for any signs of fraud or deceit.

Lastly, the EAGLE Act would grant lawful permanent resident status to certain nonimmigrant individuals who have an approved immigrant visa petition and have waited for two years or more for a visa in the United States.

The EAGLE Act has been embraced by both sides of the aisle, with eight Republican congressional members co-sponsoring the bill. Despite having substantial bipartisan support, the future of this bill remains uncertain as the end of Congress's lame-duck period approaches. Last year, the Senate unanimously approved a similar bill via an expedited route; however, it was unable to reach an agreement with its House counterpart.

The House and Senate both approved a bill in 2020, yet the Senate included an amendment that would disqualify Chinese military personnel or individuals associated with China's ruling political party from applying. This version of the bill was not taken into consideration by the House prior to the end of 2020.

The American Hospital Association and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) both assert that the EAGLE Act does not do enough to create an increase in immigration levels into the United States. Generally, immigration advocates support this evaluation; however, it was the cost of securing a deal.

In its letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, the American Hospital Association wrote, “The solution to addressing the backlog in employment-based visas is not to eliminate the per-country cap, but rather to acknowledge there are not enough immigrant visas overall to meet the demand for foreign-born, highly-skilled workers for all sectors in the United States.”

In its statement on the matter, AILA wrote, “The EAGLE Act (H.R. 3648) does not strike the right balance of eliminating per-country limitations without adversely impacting others. Therefore, AILA does not support its passage and urges Congress to find an equitable solution for all individuals waiting for lawful permanent residence.”

As the year comes to a close, it doesn't seem likely that the Senate will take action on the EAGLE Act. Worldwide ERC Immigration Policy Forum supports the EAGLE Act. If you want your opinion to be heard in this dialogue, we urge you to contact your elected representatives in Congress immediately.