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.
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 :
- November 6th, 2019 : Sen. Durbin again presented his case on Senate floor and requested for Unanimous Consent for his Bill S. 2603 RELIEF Act and was blocked by Sen from North Carolina Thom Hills suggesting to work with Sen. Lee as it has more co-sponsors and solves the immediate problem. Sen. Durbin indicates that he wants hearing and Sen. Lee does not want hearing…It is in grid lock. Sen. Durbin seems firm on his opinion of hearing of the bill as he indicates, it is the standard process….You can watch the Video of Sen. Durbin Speech, UC Request
- October 31st, 2019 : Sen. Lee spoke about S.386 / HR 1044 Bill and explained the importance to pass and he insisted that there is no need for hearings or changes to the bill. He said, he is going to work with Sen. Durbin on this. He did not ask for Unanimous consent… Check out the Video of Sen Lee’s Speech in Senate Today
- October 30th, 2019 : Two updates
- Senator Durbin asked for Unanimous Consent for S. 2603 today in Senate and was objected by Senator John Thune, on behalf of Sen. Lee. Basically, it is in a grid lock between Sen. Lee and Sen. Durbin…Not sure, if there will be a compromise soon. Watch Video of Sen. Durbin asking for UC and Blocked
- It is reported by ImmigrationVoice that Sen. Lee will bring up S.386 / HR 1044 again tomorrow for UC on the senate floor. We need to wait and see if Sen. Durbin will object again or make some compromise before that…stay tuned.
- Oct 24th, 2019 : In Senate Judiciary Committee, S 386 / HR 1044 immigration bill was brought up briefly indicating that there are concerns from Sen Durbin on the immigration bill and there could be hearing on the same in future. No actual hearing took place, it was just a mention that the Judiciary committee could take it up in future to sort our the differences. Watch Senate Video Recording at 24th Minute
- Oct 23rd, 2019 : Earlier today, there was some confusion and Charles Kuk mentioned that there will be voting tomorrow….but again later he corrected that there is no vote…ImmigrationVoice also clarified that there is no voting for S386 / HR 1044 tomorrow…See below for their tweets.
- Oct 17th, 2019 : Today the S.386 / HR 1044 Bill was again presented on Senate Floor and asked for Unanimous Consent and objected/blocked by Sen. Durbin. It is a deadlock, Sen. Durbin wants to lobby for his bill to increase Green Cards, Sen. Lee wants to pass the current one as the other one will not go through and is a poison pill for S. 386 / HR 1044..Sen. Durbin wants a hearing in Judiciary committee on this bill…Sen. Lee says, he does not have any objections for the hearings, but he does not know if the committee would take up..he affirmatively said that the bill is ready to pass and he will do everything to pass this and come back again as needed…Check out two videos from Senate :
- First video recording of the UC – Objections .
- Second Video Recording – Judiciary Committee Hearing info
- At this time, the bill is again stuck
- Oct 16th, 2019 : Two key updates from today
- RELIEF Act : Sen. Durbin Introduced a bill called “Resolving Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employees and Families (RELIEF) Act ” that is an alternative for S.386/ HR 1044. It removes backlog, lifts country caps, protects aging out of kids, etc. Official text not out yet. He has asked for unanimous consent for the same and it was objected by Sen. John Kennedy from Louisiana. You can check the entire floor proceedings video and read Sen. Durbin’s Senate Webpage
- Unanimous Consent planned for tomorrow, Oct. 17th, 2019 for S.386 / HR 1044. It is confirmed by Immigration Voice on their Facebook page.
- Oct 15th, 2019 : Attorney Charles Kuck tweets that there could be a Unanimous consent Motion on Floor for S.386 / HR 1044 on Oct 17th, 2019. We do not have any other news sources or groups confirming it yet. We are not sure, if any agreement has been reached with Sen. Durbin to remove the hold… need to wait and see.
- October 15th, 2019 : About 50 business schools deans wrote an open letter to the president and all lawmakers highlighting the need to remove per country caps, modernize H1B programs so that they do not lose talent. It was an open letter published on Wall Street Journal today. Their concern is the shortage of STEM workers in US, falling enrolment rates for Business Schools in US, visa policies are not friendly to attract talent…See below. Read press release on GMAC. There is no specific mention of S386 / HR1044, but they do mention about Per Country Caps and H1B
- Oct 10th, 2019 : A walk was organised in Chicago by Illinois Immigration Reform, primarily high skilled workers from India, to demonstrate their concerns like decades long wait times, issues like aging out of kids and convey Senator Durbin the urgency, pain and importance to pass S.386 / HR 1044. He has put a hold on the current bill in Senate. The walk is to help Sen. Durbin understand the importance and remove his hold. It is reported about 5000 people attended the walk. Also, at the same time, there was a small group of people opposing the same Bill from rest of the world population asking to continue the hold of S.386 / HR 1044 and the current bill is not fair for rest of the world. USAToday covered a news article that talks about the rally and how this bill has divided people… See below couple of tweets and pictures from the walk.
- Oct 4th, 2019 : It is reported by one of the Irish American News website called as IrishEcho indicating that a letter was written to Sen. Durbin urging that the S.386 is not fair or Irish people and it will impact them. Essentially urging the senator to continue the hold on S.386/ HR 1044 and oppose the same. Check more at https://www.irishecho.com/2019/10/hibernians-sound-alarm-over-immigration-bill/
- Oct 1st, 2019 : Nothing new from the progress of the bill HR 1044/S.386 standpoint, but there was an update shared by Immigration voice on the situation with Senator Durbin, some history and his stance. You can read it on Facebook Post . The post indicates that the future of the bill is uncertain as Sen. Durbin would object/ block it unless, there is increase in Green Card numbers…
- Sep 26th, 2019 : Couple of key updates today.
- The HR 1044 was not brought onto the floor as expected previously. It was updated by Immigration Voice that the voting would not happen. Check their Tweet .
- Everyone wondered the reason, later the videos related to Senator Dick Durbin indicate the discussion on the HR 1044 bill and where Dick Durbin mentioned that he spoke to Senator Lee on this topic and he would want to do a fix that will benefit everyone and not hurt others. His goal is to raise the overall number of green cards under the EB category, rather than the current bill that favours Indians and hurts rest of the world. Senator Lee knew that he would get objection from Sen. Durbin, hence he did not bring it on the floor…That’s the reason for not having vote today. See below videos captured by users circulated on WhatsApp from the meeting with public. Listen to last 40 seconds, where he talks about what was offered to Sen. Lee.
- Sep 25th, 2019 : Senator Mike Lee has given some updates in his live stream event. Below are the details
- Sen. Lee confirmed that he reached an agreement with Georgia Senator David Purdue over the language of the Bill over lunch.
- He will bring in HR 1044 for Unanimous Consent Tomorrow again on the floor.
- He believes that there could be some objection from Illinois Senator Dick Durbin tomorrow. So, he requested to reach out to him.
- Check out Facebook Live Video from 28:30 to 33:00 ish.
- Sep 19th, 2019 ( 1:20 PM EST ) : HR 1044 bill was brought on to the Senate Floor for Unanimous Consent by Senator Lee. It was objected by Republican Senator David Perdue from Georgia. The reason for objection :
- Bill Language Needs to be clarified ( does not tell the details)
- Concern on the impact it would have on specific industries in his state.
- He did say that he will work on this and wants to pass the Bill by changing the modifications.
- Sen. Lee said he would work through the weekend and come back next week for the Unanimous Consent again.
- Sep 18th, 2019 ( Official) : The official amendment SA 939 text related to HR. 1044 Bill was updated in the congressional record. Read summary : Senate Amended HR 1044 Bill with S386, Section A, H1B, LCA
- Sep 17, 2019 ( Unofficial ) : There are two updates : one is on the actual HR 1044 bill status and second is on the update by ImmigrationVoice.
- ImmigrationVoice Reports that Senator Paul has agreed to remove the hold on the bill and it will be brought to the floor for unanimous consent on Sep 19th, 2019. They claim the below.
- Senator Paul has agreed on a compromise to set aside 5,000 per year for Schedule A workers ( professional nurses) for the next 9 years. In fact, the Schedule A workers receive about 5,000 green cards per year currently.
- The plan is to take up H.R.1044 in Senate with Unanimous consent and amend the changes in the S.386 bill as listed above regarding worker protections and Sen Paul’s Schedule A workers ( nurses) changes in the bill and move it forward. Check Immigration Voice Facebook Post for the actual text claimed by them.
- Changes in Congress website for HR 1044 Bill (Official): No official press releases are released yet confirming the info by immigration voice yet. But, we have changes Congress website related to the bill indicating that it was referred to the Judiciary committee and Senate Amendment 939 is done on it . See below.
- ImmigrationVoice Reports that Senator Paul has agreed to remove the hold on the bill and it will be brought to the floor for unanimous consent on Sep 19th, 2019. They claim the below.
- July 11th, 2019 : After it has passed in House, on July 11th, HR 1044 was received in Senate, read twice and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. See below.
- July 10th, 2019 : HR 1044 Bill was passed in House on July 10th, with a majority of 365 to 65. Below is the split by party and screenshot from the House.gov website voting page. Check Official HR 1044 Vote Status on House.gov
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.