The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) applauded Senator Schumer (D-NY) for conducting today’s hearing underscoring how important immigrant workers are to our nation’s economy. At the hearing, Dr. Arora testified on behalf of Immigration Voice, a national grassroots non-profit organization of over 60,000 active highly skilled immigrants
Dr. Arora’s goal in his testimony was to not only to further expand upon the systemic problems faced by highly skilled immigrants, especially those who come to America from large countries, but also to bring home to America the personal goals and ambitions of a group of future Americans you commonly refer to by nonimmigrant terms like H-1bs, Ls, NIWs, and TNs.
Dr. Arora summarized his background and his many impressive achievements in this country. Dr. Arora worked under a J-1 visa. After obtaining a J-1 waiver, he obtained an H-1B visa followed by a Fellowship and an American Board Certification in Internal Medicine.
After highlighting current business immigration related problems, Ar. Arora came up with the following recommendations for the immigration system:
“I recommend the following changes be adopted as soon as possible by Congress: 1. Eliminate per country limits—as previously discussed, this is as much an issue of fairness as it is an issue of reducing wait times. Currently, highly skilled immigrants from the largest countries in the world bear the full burden of this negative externality. Removal of these caps will distribute wait times among all immigrants, making the system fair as a “first come, first serve” process and alleviating market distorting pressures on Indian and Chinese immigrants stuck for years on temporary visas. This change is a simple, technical fix requiring no additional green card numbers be issued.
2. Recapture previously authorized but unused green card numbers—also, discussed above, recapturing previously authorized but unused green cards will allow Congress to help clear the employment-based backlog without authorizing any additional visas. These visas were already provided by law, but due in many cases to bureaucratic inefficiencies, they were lost. Recapturing is an option that requires no major changes to the immigration system.
3. Raise the employment-based green card cap to 290,000 visas per year—raising the cap on employment-based green cards is the most obvious solution to the employment-based problem. While this option may be the least politically acceptable among certain leaders in Congress, it is also the simplest with clear and absolute caps.
4. Allow for job portability, without losing the worker’s place in the green card line, on the filing of an application for labor certification—this issue is also touched upon above. Highly skilled immigrants waiting for green cards are trapped on temporary visas. Even though the law allows for certain temporary visa holders, such as H-1bs, to change jobs, many immigrants opt not to do so for a simple reason: changing employers under the current system means starting over in the green card line. For highly skilled immigrants deeply impacted by per country limits, the incentives to remain with their current employer at any cost are high. Allowing highly skilled immigrants to change jobs once they have filed for green cards without losing their place in line will empower these workers to pursue their maximum employment potential, adding greatly to morale and further protecting these immigrants from potential abuses.
5. Exempt certain categories from the employment-based caps—as noted in my testimony already, family members use up a significant portion of employment-based green cards. Other categories of highly skilled immigrants may also deserve special consideration when applying for employment-based green cards. To this end, I recommend exempting from the employment-based caps individuals who meet the following criteria:
–STEM degree holders with an advanced degree from a U.S. university
–Spouses and children of employment-based immigrant visa recipients
–National Interest Waiver recipients
–Physicians that provide designated services in medically underserved areas
6. Provide for the roll-over of unused immigrant visa numbers to the following fiscal year—given the loss of visas due to bureaucratic inefficiencies on an annual basis, rolling visas forward is the best way to ensure that recapture is an imbedded principle of the employment-based system.
These are but a few examples of the creative ways in which our green card system can provide additional numbers by incentivizing positive behaviors that benefit the country and/or address the intended spirit of the law.”