While I was never a maths whizz, I used to do okay with numbers. I didn’t get to use a calculator until who knows when in school (meaning that I used my brain for day to day problems), I even knew long division, and was able to knock out pretty much all my friends and family’s telephone numbers instantly. Now, I use my smart phone to look up people’s numbers (I honestly don’t remember more than a handful), long division is a thing of the past, and I pull out a calculator for tasks that I really don’t need it for.
Still, there is importance in the number that I’m going to write about in my blog today. Today’s number is 3012. As in H.R. 3012 – Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act of 2011, which in November of last year, passed the House of Representatives in Washington DC (and you all thought nothing gets done in the Nation’s capital – more on that later).
Before I get to the Bill itself, I will take the opportunity to describe the current process by which visa numbers are allocated and processed (don’t get too excited just yet – I said the Bill had passed the House, not that it has become law or anything so drastic as that). The United States currently awards in the region of 140,000 employment based (EB) green cards each year, and the system is based on different categories (EB-1, EB-2 and so on), as well as per country limits which mean that no one country can use more than 7% of the total green cards in any particular year.
In practice, this has led to significant visa backlogs for individuals from India and China in the EB-2 Green Card category (due to the large scale numbers of individuals from those countries relative to others). While this has affected highly skilled individuals who are being sponsored for a permanent position by an employer (in positions requiring a Master’s Degree or above) from all sectors, scientists and researchers are also affected by the self-sponsored EB-2 National Interest Waiver application (for more information on the EB-2 National Interest Waiver category, please visit our website at www.leavyfrank.com).
So, we currently have a situation whereby the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can evaluate and approve a scientist or researcher’s application for permanent residence in a restrictive visa category, acknowledge that the person meets this high standard and that their work can be considered to be in the US National Interest, yet make that person wait for receipt of their green card for a period of time, which at the time of writing is approximately two years (and has only recently moved from making such applicants wait for something in the region of four years).
The elimination of per country limits would serve to eliminate (in the EB-2 category) separate cut off dates for India and China, and essentially all countries would base their visa availability on a first come, first served system and everyone would be bound by the same cutoff date.
So, is this fair? Is it equitable that such a change be made to the US immigration visa numbers game? It would seem at first glance that for scientists from India and China final passage into law of this bill would be a boon. Instead of oversubscribing their own numbers, they would be placed into queue of all skilled immigrants, regardless of country classification. Yet what about researchers of other nationalities? Traditionally, approval of an EB-2 visa application has allowed them to immediately move forward with the final processing of their Green Card. It is possible that passage of this bill into law would lead to delays in the EB-2 program for individuals from all countries.
When the bill passed the house, initial thoughts were that due to the bipartisan support, the Senate would, at the very least, grant strong consideration. However, Senator Grassley (R-IA) placed a hold on the bill on November 30, 2011 before offering an amendment on December 15, 2011. As of right now, the bill has yet to move forward. I’m loath to predict how anything will play out on Capital Hill. I just live here, and while I understand procedurally the manner by which a bill becomes law through the legislative process, it seems that it takes various algorithms and logarithms to make it happen. Now, about that calculator and long division…
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