Immigration Bills to Watch

Congress has adjourned for its annual summer recess and will be returning after Labor Day to address a number of immigration bills. The following are worth watching:

Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 (H.R. 1044) passed the House of Representatives on July 10; its Senate companion bill (S. 386) remains pending. H.R. 1044 would amend the immigration laws by eliminating the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants and increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-sponsored immigrants, without increasing the overall available visa numbers. Proposed changes to the per-country limitations, in practice for employment-based immigrants, will impose what amounts to at least a seven-year moratorium on all employment-based immigration categories except for perhaps Indian and Chinese nationals in these categories. This is because there are an estimated 1,000,000 Indian and Chinese nationals with approved petitions who have been waiting years for visa availability. Without per-country limitations, Indians and Chinese nationals with early priority dates would get their immigrant visas first.

Backlog Elimination, Legal Immigration, and Employment Visa Enhancement (BELIEVE) Act was introduced in the Senate in early July. The bill would, among other things, eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants, increase the number of employment-based green cards available each year, exempt certain health care workers and certain spouses and children from counting against the worldwide limitation on the number of employment-based visas, and allow spouses and children of E, H, and L visa holders to pursue employment. Unlike the bill that passed by the House of Representatives, the BELIEVE Act is more generous and proactively addresses how changes to the per-country numerical limitations will adversely impact foreign nationals waiting years for their green cards.

Other bills before Congress address the Flores Settlement Agreement, employment authorization for H-4s, TPS for Venezuelans, and stabilization of the Northern Triangle.

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