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Proposed bill would change green card rules for skilled workers

A new bill has been proposed called the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. Essentially, the bill attempts to make it less difficult and time-consuming for foreign nationals in the country on temporary visas for high-skilled jobs to obtain permanent residency permits, or green cards.

However, after flying through the House of Representatives in November with bi-partisan support, the bill has come to a screeching halt in the Senate and is a source of controversy, even among immigrant advocates.

Some argue that the bill is unfair to American citizens who could lose highly-skilled jobs to foreign nationals, especially with the tough competition in the current job market.

Others, including immigrant advocacy groups, argue that the bill is unfair because it benefits workers from bigger countries, like India and China, instead of smaller ones.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act would primarily benefit highly-skilled workers from larger countries because it would eliminate the individual country limits on granting work-based green cards. Instead, the green cards would be granted on a first-come, first-served basis, regardless of where the applicant is from.

Overall, there are 140,000 green cards issued to immigrants who have temporary work visas each year. But there is a cap limiting each country to 7 percent of the green cards, which means that workers from smaller countries typically get green cards faster while people from countries like India and China have a much longer wait.

The bill would not lead to any more green cards being issued. This is why other opponents of the bill argue that an entire overhaul of the system is needed, allowing more green cards to be issued to workers, instead of merely changing the proportion of workers coming from different countries.

Talk to an experienced immigration lawyer to find out how this bill could affect you personally.

Source: The Washington Post, "Dispute over proposed green card law pits brightest immigrants against each other," Pamela Constable, Jan. 10, 2012

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