30 November 2011

New bill ends country cap for skilled American visas

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Politicians from both major parties in the House of Representatives have overwhelmingly passed a bill making it easier for highly skilled applicants from India and China to obtain an American visa and become 'green card' holding permanent residents of the US.

US visa application

A bill has been passed to remove the country caps on American visa applications from highly skilled migrants.

Due to backlogs, some highly skilled American visa applicants can face waits of up to 70 years before their green card would be approved. The new bill aims to reduce such a wait by removing the limit on green cards which is based on a cap placed on each country. Currently, the American government makes available 140,000 skill-based green cards and limits availability to 7% of that allocation for each country.

There will be a three year transition before the bill takes effect, after which time green cards based on employment will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis with no country-based limits.

The move will help appease technology companies who have been pressuring Congress to provide more green cards for foreign employees, worried that the US was lagging behind competition elsewhere in the world due to immigrant workers being forced to leave.

Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and co-author of the bill said the legislation makes sense. “Why should American employers who seek green cards for skilled foreign workers have to wait longer just because the workers are from India or China?” he said.

On the family side of the US immigration system, Mexicans and Filipinos face the longest waits for green cards based on family ties. The bill more than doubles the number of green cards available for these two groups.

The bill does not address illegality in the American immigration system.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people with their ESTA visa application.

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