If you live, work in America on a non-immigrant visa such as H1B Visa, L1 Visa and plan to apply for green card to become permanent resident in US, per country numerical limitation or cap is an important factor that determine how soon you will get your green card. Many efforts have been made in the past as bills in US House and Senate to remove such country caps for employment based green card applicants, but nothing made it through both of them and got signed by president to become law. In 2019, the same persistent effort for this cause, started in 116th Congress in the form of HR 1044 Bill in House to remove per country limits for employment based green card applications. We will summarize the key points in the bill, current status, its chances and next steps.
Latest Update from December 21st, 2020
HR 1044 was amended significantly in Senate and passed as well, read COMPLETE Summary of the HR1044 Bill Passed in Senate. But, after it arrived in House, the members did not agree to the changes and as of Dec 21, 2020 there is no agreement. It was not added to the Omnibus Spending Bill too and did not get voted. Rep Lofgren confirmed that this bill is not going to be worked on in the current Congress session and will be pursued in next Congress that starts in 2021. Check Latest Updates on HR1044 , S386 for full timeline and summary
Note : The below HR1044 version and details are before December 2nd, 2020. Check the latest passed HR 1044 bill at : COMPLETE Summary of the HR1044 Bill Passed in Senate.
What is HR 1044 Bill ? 5 key points in the H R 1044 Bill ?
HR 1044, which is also called as “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019”, is a bill introduced in the House (US House of Representatives) that is a resurrection of previous HR 392 Bill from 2017 -2018. As it is bill originated in House, it starts with H R that stands for House of Representatives. Below are the key summary points of the HR 1044 Bill to eliminate per country green card limits and details on the same.
1. Eliminate per country limit for Employment based petitions :
This is the most important point in the bill. Every year, as per INA 140,000 petitions are allocated for all employment based green cards categories. But today, there is a limit of 7% (9,800) per country for employment based green card petitions. Essentially, the main reason for the bill is that many believe that employment-based petitions should not be subject to per country limit, because that is a discrimination by nationality origin, when the core green card petition is based on employment, skills and not related to diversity or anything as such. Also, the rationale is that it is not fair to have 7% quota for a small country like Iceland with 338,000 population vs same 7% for a country like India with 1.339 billion population. Below are the actual text screenshots from the HR 1044 bill and the reference from Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of section 1152 that has provision for per country green card limit. In the bill text, you can see, they would like to strike “Employment Based” and remove the ‘and’ clauses.
In the below INA 1152 Text, the text highlighted in RED is the one that is requested to be removed.
2. Increase per country limit for family sponsored petitions:
As you can see in the above bill text highlighted, the bill would like to change the limit of family sponsored green cards from 7 percent to 15 percent.
3. Transition Rules for Employment Based Petitions from FY 2020 to FY 2022:
In order to better transition and not have major two countries ( like India, China) take up everything, below are some of the rules
- For Fiscal Year 2020 ( Oct 2019 – Sept 2020) : 15% of employment based green cards should be allocated to immigrants from of two non-major foreign states ( like India, China). Basically, 15% reserved for rest of the countries and only 85% to be allocated to major countries like India, China.
- For Fiscal Year 2021 ( Oct 2020 – Sept 2021) : 10% of employment based green cards should be allocated to immigrants of two non-major foreign states ( like India, China). Basically, 10% reserved for rest of the countries and only 90% to be allocated to major countries like India, China.
- For Fiscal Year 2022 ( Oct 2021 – Sept 2022) : 10% of employment based green cards should be allocated to immigrants of two non-major foreign states ( like India, China). Basically, 10% reserved for rest of the countries and only 90% to be allocated to major countries like India, China.
- After Fiscal Year 2022 ( From October 2022), there will NOT be any reservations for non-major foreign states.
4. Per Country levels in the Transition Rules for Employment Based from FY 2020 to FY 2022:
- Reserved Visas: In the above mentioned reservation of 15% and 10% for non-major states during transition period, the number of visas for any foreign country (that is a non-major state) shall not exceeded 25% or 2% for dependent areas ( these are not independent countries, but dependent colonies, parts of certain countries like French Polynesia of France. Read on State.gov – Dependent areas ) of the total reserved visas. Meaning that any country that is part of the non-major countries list (not like India, China) cannot take up more than 25% of the total reserved visas/green cards.
- Unreserved Visas: During the transition period of FY 2020, 2021, 2022 as mentioned above, for the all the un-reserved visas ( basically 85% in FY 2020, 90% in FY 2021, FY 2022), not more than 85% of visas should be allocated to single country. Essentially, they are telling that of the un-reserved portion cannot be taken up by one country alone and the maximum they can take is 85% of the quota. E.g. India or China can only take up 85% maximum from the 85% pool in FY 2020
- Special Rule to prevent Unused Visas : During the transition period of FY 2020, 2021 and 2022, if any of the visas are left over or unused due the clauses as listed above like per country levels, and reservations, then such visas should be given to remaining ones in line without applying such restrictions.
5. Current Approved Beneficiaries in line – Transition Rule:
To prevent harm to anyone waiting for green card, a clause is added. It says that, if you are already waiting in line for Green Card with approved I-140, you would either have same or shorter wait time, after this bill is passed. The intent of this clause is not to harm or impact people already waiting in line for Green Card with priority date. The goal of the clause is to prevent someone applying today for I-140 and getting ahead of someone, who has been waiting in line before the passing of this new rule.
For Official Text, info, status Check Official HR 1044 bill text on Congress.gov
News Updates, Current Status of HR 1044 Bill :
We are tracking all the news separately as it is tracked by date and is lengthy. For easy review and reading, it is a separate article. Check out article : Latest news updates on the S.386 and HR 1044
What are the next steps for HR 1044 Bill ?
The typical next steps are to go through similar process in Senate, there will be debate and voting. The high level process is that, it is now referred to a Senate Judiciary committee as per latest September 17th update and then goes to the floor for debate and voting in senate and then to be signed by president. Thought this sounds simple it has a long way to go. It has to be passed in the same form, to make it further, if any changes, then again it comes back…
As of September 27th, 2019, the HR 1044 Bill was amended with text from S386 and other changes as requested by Senator Grassley and Sen Rand Paul. It was brought on the floor for Unanimous consent and was blocked by Sen. Perdue. Later it was supposed to be again tried on Senate floor, but Sen. Lee believes that it will be blocked again by Sen. Durbin, so it was not brought on to the Senate floor. We need to wait and see, if something happens.
What are the Chances for H4 1044 Bill to become law or pass in Senate, get signed by president ?
The process is US Senate is not as straightforward as in House. The bill to get to voting first it needs support in the respective committee and pass voting there or sometimes maybe tabled as well. Once that is done, it will go through the senate floor for debate. Now is the tricky part, to end the debate in Senate, you need unanimous consent of all the senators (100 of them) to go for vote. Usually, if any one or group of senators want to stop voting, they can put a hold on the bill. You need about 60 votes to get out of that tricky hold situation with the process of ‘Cloture’. Read How does a Bill becomes Law in US Congress to understand the complexities in the process.
Though the bill had a majority vote in House and got passed there, it does not have same support in Senate. Similar Bill S 386 Bill introduced in Senate has 34 cosponsors, but it does not have majority of 60 to get out of that hold situation. There were agreements done with Sen Paul, Sen Grassley and Sen Durbin to go to Unanimous Consent after it was blocked couple of times. Now, the situation is that Sen. Durbin wants to increase the green cards numbers, which Sen. Lee does not want to do as it could kill the bill. So, as of now, there is one Senator not agreeing to it….Also, we do not know, if others may object, if it is tried for Unanimous consent again….This is the typical situation in Senate, where anyone can object and you will have a hard time, if you do not have majority…
So, despite the progress so far, the odds of the bill to go all the way in its current form is as it is in the form it exists today is still low.
Anyways, once, it gets through both House and Senate in same form, then it goes to President, which can be vetoed by President as his plans are for Merit Based Green Cards by Points System eliminating current categories for Green Cards. It has a long way to go…We will keep everyone posted.
What do you think of the HR 1044 Bill ? What do you think are its chances ? Add your thoughts.