Eliminating the country quota from the most sought-after Green Cards will end the current discrimination in the US labour market, but would allow countries like India and China to dominate the path to American citizenship, according to the latest Congressional report.
Having a Green Card allows a person to live and work permanently in the United States.
Indian-Americans, most of whom are highly skilled and come to the US mainly on the H-1B work visas, are the worst sufferers of the current immigration system which imposes a seven per cent per country quota on allotment of Green Cards or the Legal Permanent Residency (LPR).
The bipartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), an independent research wing of Congress, said if the per-country cap for employment-based immigrants was removed, many expect that Indian and Chinese nationals would dominate the flow of new employment-based LPRs for as many years as needed to clear out the accumulated queue of prospective immigrants from those countries.
This queue would include those with approved employment-based immigrant petitions waiting to file either a visa application with Department of State or an adjustment of status application with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the CRS said in its latest report.
The CRS regularly prepares reports on various issues for the lawmakers to make informed decisions.
A copy of the report 'Permanent Employment-Based Immigration and the Per-country Ceiling' dated December 21 was made available to PTI, ahead of the new Congress beginning January 3, wherein several lawmakers are planning to introduce legislation to eliminate per-country quota for issuing Green Cards to foreign nationals.
As of April 2018, a total of 306,601 Indian nationals mostly IT professionals were waiting in line for Green Cards, according to the USCIS figures.
Indians constitute 78 per cent of the 395,025 foreign nationals waiting for Green Cards in just one category of employment-based LPR applications.
Due to the cap, the current wait period for the majority of Indians to get a Green Card is nine and half years, the CRS said, adding this could increase or decrease further depending on the number of new applications every year. India is followed by China with 67,031 in line for Green Cards.
Lawmakers favouring eliminating the per-country cap contend that such circumstances effectively encourage employers to sponsor prospective employment-based immigrants primarily from India.
Proponents argue that removing the per-country ceiling from employment-based immigrants would "level the playing field" by making immigrants from all countries more equally attractive to employers, the CRS said.
According to the CRS, eliminating the per-country ceiling would reduce certain queues of prospective immigrants more quickly, and remove the perceived employer incentive to choose nationals from these countries over other countries.
"Shorter wait times for LPR status might actually incentivise greater numbers of nationals from India, China and the Philippines to seek employment-based LPR status. If that were to occur, the reduction in the number of approved petitions pending might be short-lived.
"A handful of countries could conceivably dominate employment-based immigration, possibly benefitting certain industries that employ foreign workers from those countries, at the expense of foreign workers from other countries and other industries that might employ them," the CRS said.
Because the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) grants LPRs the ability to sponsor family members through its family-sponsorship provisions, removing the per-country ceiling would alter, to an unknown extent, the country-of-origin composition of subsequent family-based immigrants acquiring LPR status each year, it said.
Changes in the country's demographic profile tilted towards people from one part of the world were one of the prime reasons for the current per country quota. This, on the other hand, restricts the flow of the best talented foreign workers.
The INA allocates 140,000 visas annually for all five employment-based LPR categories, roughly 12 per cent of the 1.1 million LPRs admitted in fiscal 2017. It further limits each immigrant-sending country to an annual maximum of seven per cent of all employment-based LPR admissions, known as the per-country ceiling, or "cap".
Two popular employment-based pools of foreign nationals, who have been approved as employment-based immigrants but must wait for statutorily limited visa numbers, totalled in excess of 900,000 as of mid-2018. Most originate from India, followed by China and the Philippines, the CRS said.
Some employers maintain that they continue to need skilled foreign workers to remain internationally competitive and to keep their firms in the US, it said.
Proponents of increasing employment-based immigration levels argue it is vital for economic growth. Opponents cite the lack of compelling evidence of labour shortages and argue that the presence of foreign workers can negatively impact wages and working conditions in the US, the CRS said.
"Some argue that eliminating the per-country ceiling would increase the flow of high-skilled immigrants from countries such as India and China, who are often employed in the US technology sector, without increasing the total annual admission of employment-based LPRs," it added.