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New immigration bill could give family visas to skilled workers

A key group of senators charged with coming up with a new bill on immigration reform appears to be favoring employment-based immigration over family-based immigration, according to recent reports. Initial reports say the senators all agree that the number of immigrants allowed to enter the country each year should remain the same, but they could be proposing a change in who those people should be.

For the past several decades, immigration has vastly been family-based, focusing on the relatives of U.S. citizens. According to the Migration Policy Institute, about 65 percent of today's legal immigrants enter the country on family-based visas, while only about 14 percent enter the country on employment-based visas. The group of senators could be looking to change those figures.

More specifically, initial reports say the new bill could eliminate priority status for married adult children and siblings of U.S. citizens, which add up to about 90,000 visas per year. People in these categories would still be able to apply for entry to the United States, but they would need another way to qualify for a green card, such as high-tech skills. Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens would still be given priority.

Lawmakers appear divided over the issue, with Republicans siding with employers, who want more of a focus on employment-based visas, while Democrats argue that family-based immigration is more important. The senate group charged with coming up with a bill is made up of both Republicans and Democrats. The senators have said that they expect to release a comprehensive version of the bill in early April.

Source: Washington Post, "Senate group considers large reduction in family visas as part of immigration deal," David Nakamura, March 14, 2013.

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