Referred to Committee on January 8, 2015, H.R. 213: Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2015 is sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT3) with cosponsors Reps Raul Labrador (R-ID1) and Zoe Lofgran (D-CA19). This Bill would update the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate country-based restrictions on employment visas and to reduce country-based restrictions on family visas. The INA currently limits the combined total of work and family visas for immigrants from any country at 7% of the country’s population. H.R. 213 would amend this to increase the limit to 15% and make the limit apply only to family-sponsored immigrants. Employment-based visa sponsorship would have no per country limits.
While this Bill could result in an increase in the number of immigrants from a particular country in a given year, it would not increase the overall number of visas issued within a fiscal year. In essence, the system would work on a first-come first-served visa system, instead of requiring individuals from certain countries to wait years while others only wait months for a green card. Representative Chaffetz stated that “this bill is an important step toward creating a more equitable and less arbitrary immigration system. Our current practice of capping visas at an arbitrary 7% per country ultimately favors people from some countries while penalizing people from others. Those from countries with larger populations or close proximity to the United States ultimately wait years longer to receive a visa than those from small countries. While this bill does not fix all of our legal immigration problems, it addresses an important problem that has created a backlog of qualified workers.”
It is important to note that current law prohibits US employers from hiring foreign workers to fill these jobs unless there are not sufficient US workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available. Due to the prevailing wage system established by the Department of Labor, employment of a non-immigrant worker cannot adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed workers in the US. HR 213 does not change this, but it does encourage high skilled immigrants who were educated in the US to stay and contribute to our economy, rather than taking the skills they learned and aiding our competitor nations. For this reason, the Bill has bi-partisan support.