Featured Issue: Legislation Impacting the Per-Country Numerical Limitation
AILA’s Position on the Elimination of Per-Country Limitations
AILA has been a long time, ardent supporter of the elimination of the per-country limitations for employment-based immigrants because individuals should become permanent residents based on the skills they bring to the United States and not their nationality. We believe that Congress must take action to provide fair redress to individuals who have been stuck in the immigrant visa backlog for decades, without adversely impacting others.
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.
AILA will continue to champion, both legislatively and administratively, the principles outlined in the RELIEF Act (H.R. 5327: Resolving Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employers and Families Act) to ensure equitable and fair redress to individuals and their families while waiting for an immigrant visa to become available. These principles outline steps to bring real reform to our immigrant visa system, including exempting spouses and minor children of primary applicants from the immigrant visa quotas, enabling individuals to get the benefits of filing adjustment of status applications earlier, increasing the number of green cards over the next five years, protecting minor children from aging out, and eliminating the per country caps.
The EAGLE Act
On June 1, 2021, Representatives Lofgren (D-CA) and Curtis (R-UT) introduced the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act of 2021 (H.R. 3648). This bill is modeled after the version of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 (S. 386) that passed the Senate in December 2020.
This bill would:
- Increase family-based per country limits from 7 percent to 15 percent.
- Eliminate employment-based per country limitations.
- Provides a 9-year transition period for the EB-2 and EB-3 preference categories.
- Reserves 5.75 percent of visas for consular processing cases during the transition.
- Reserve 4,400 EB-3 visas for nurses and Physical Therapists for the first 7 years.
- Establish new H-1B petition and labor condition application requirements.
- Create a temporary ability for certain nonimmigrants to file an adjustment of status (AOS) application even before a visa becomes immediately available if their I-140 petition has been approved for 2 years.
This bill does not include Sections 8 and 9 of S. 386, which sought to place a cap on AOS filings from H-1B or H-4 status and prohibited AOS for certain Chinese nationals.
If enacted, the bill would become effective on the first day of the second fiscal year after the date of enactment.
AILA will continue to monitor any legislative activity related to these issues and provide updates on this page.
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019
On February 7, 2019, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 was introduced in the House and Senate (H.R. 1044 / S. 386). This bill would have eliminated the per-country numerical limitation for all employment-based immigrants, and increase the per-country limitation for all family-sponsored immigrants from seven percent to 15 percent. On July 10, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 (H.R. 1044) by a vote of 365 to 65. A modified version of H.R. 1044 (S. 386) was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate on December 2, 2020. AILA is providing the below summary of the major provisions in the two different versions of the bill. Because the differences in these bills were not reconciled by the House and Senate prior to the end of the 116th Session of Congress, this legislation failed. Provisions of this legislation were reintroduced in the EAGLE Act on June 1, 2021.
While many of the below resources refer to the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, they remain relevant and informative to the current legislation, as the EAGLE Act of 2021 has retained many provisions of the prior legislation.
- Talking Points on the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act of 2021
- Practice Alert: Advising EB-5 Clients on the Potential Impact of Removal of the Per-Country Numerical Limitation – September 24, 2019
- Summary of Senator Grassley Provisions in Amendment to H.R. 1044 Filed by Senator Lee - September 18, 2019
- Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019: Key Considerations and Anticipated Impact - July 24, 2019
- AILA Section-by-Section Summary of H.R. 1044, Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 - February 8, 2019
Related Legislation Impacting Per Country Numerical Limitation
- H.R. 5327: Resolving Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employees and Families (RELIEF) Act
- S. 2603, Resolving Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employees and Families (RELIEF) Act
- S. 2091: Backlog Elimination, Legal Immigration, and Employment Visa Enhancement (BELIEVE) Act
- S. 1744: Keep STEM Talent Act of 2019
- Congressional Research Service: The Employment-Based Immigration Backlog - March 26, 2020
- The analysis projects similar outcomes for all three employment-based categories: Indian, and to a lesser extent Chinese, nationals in the backlog would experience shorter wait times under S. 386 compared with current law. The bill would eliminate current EB1, EB2, and EB3 backlogs in 3, 17, and 7 years, respectively, with modest differences by country of origin. Subsequently, new prospective immigrants would receive green cards on a first-come, first-served basis with equal wait times within each category, regardless of origin country. By FY2030, EB1, EB2, and EB3 petition holders could expect to wait 7, 37, and 11 years, respectively.
- Congressional Research Service: Permanent Employment-Based Immigration and the Per-Country Ceiling - December 21, 2018
- Disclaimer: This report was published in December 2018 before H.R. 1044 was introduced. The report, therefore, fails to take into consideration several key features of H.R. 1044, including the "do no harm" provision for employment-based immigrants.
- Congressional Research Service: Numerical Limits on Permanent Employment-Based Immigration: Analysis of the Per-Country Ceiling - July 28, 2016
- CATO Institute: Comments on the Senate Passed Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act – December 4, 2020
- National Immigration Forum Bill Analysis: The RELIEF Act – February 20, 2020
- CATO Institute: Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act: Wait Times and Green Card Grants – September 30, 2019
- Forbes: Bill Aims to End Decades-Long Waits for High-Skilled Immigrants - February 15, 2019