US Senate passes bill eliminating per-country cap for H-1B work visas

Washington: The US Senate has unanimously passed a bill that eliminates the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrant visas and raises it for family-based visas, a legislation that will hugely benefit hundreds of thousands of Indian professionals in America who have been waiting for years to get their green cards.

The passage of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act by the Senate on Wednesday comes as a big relief to Indian IT professionals who come to the US on H-1B work visas and their current waiting period for Green Card or permanent residency is running into decades.


Originally passed by the US House of Representatives on July 10, 2019 by a bipartisan 365 to 65 votes, the legislation increases the per-country cap on family-based immigrant visas from seven per cent of the total number of such visas available that year to 15 per cent. It was sponsored by Republican Senator Mike Lee from Utah in the Senate.

The legislation eliminates the seven per cent cap for employment-based immigrant visas, a provision that will facilitate removal of the massive backlog of Indian IT professionals in the US. It also removes an offset that reduced the number of visas for individuals from China. Because of arbitrary per-country caps, the legal status of Indian IT professionals was constantly in jeopardy.


In fiscal year 2019, Indian nationals received 9,008 category 1 (EB1), 2,908 category 2 (EB2), and 5,083 category 3 (EB3) Green Cards. EB1-3 are different categories of employment-based Green Cards.

In July, Senator Lee had told the Senate that the backlog for an Indian national to get permanent residency or Green Card is more than 195 years.

The new legislation also establishes transition rules for employment-based visas from FY2020-FY2022, by reserving a percentage of EB-2 (workers with advanced degrees or exceptional ability), EB-3 (skilled and other workers), and EB-5 (investors) visas for individuals not from the two countries with the largest number of recipients of such visas.


Of the unreserved visas, not more than 85 per cent shall be allotted to immigrants from any single country. Running against time, the Senate on Wednesday moved the process very quickly. It was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee by unanimous consent and soon thereafter it was considered by the full Senate. The Senate passed it quickly with unanimous consent.

Currently, there is a backlog of almost one million foreign nationals and accompanying family members lawfully residing in the US who have been approved for, and are waiting to receive, employment-based Green Cards. The largest number of them are from India.


The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act creates a more merit-based system that levels the playing field for high-skilled immigrants, said Senator Kevin Cranmer, who worked to ensure that the legislation includes safeguards against fraud and abuse in the visa system.

The Senate passed the bill as Senator Cramer presided over the chamber. “Immigration is often a contentious issue, but we should not delay progress where there is bipartisan consensus,” he said.

In February 2019, Cramer brought Debjyoti Dwivedy (“DD”), a North Dakota State University alumnus and Vice President of Immigration Voice, a group which advocates for this bill, as his guest to the State of the Union.


“As Congress debates the many aspects of our broken immigration system, Debjyoti offers expertise and experiences that reflect North Dakota priorities and values,” Senator Cramer said at the time. “It is my hope we can finally pass a version of the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act this Congress.”

“Being invited as his guest to the State of the Union was a great honour. To me, this demonstrates his appreciation for the important role immigrants play to North Dakota. His ardent support for the Fairness for Immigrants Act is found in both his conservative principles and his commitment to the people of North Dakota,” DD wrote after the event.


In August, Senator Lee on the Senate floor said that he has always been struck by the fact that the government has conditioned green cards and a pathway to citizenship based solely on the applicant’s country of origin.

There may have been some legitimate reason many decades ago in fact for this, but this has led to a system that largely discriminates against green card applicants from one country, he told his Senate colleagues.

“I mean literally one country. This is inconsistent with our founding principles. this is not how we try to do things as Americans, and it’s not right. Today, if you’re a work-based immigrant from India entering into the EB- green card application process, you will wait almost 200 years before your application is even considered solely because of where you were born,” he had said.


“Almost 200 years on a waiting list. Some people don’t even live that long. Our country isn’t much older than that, and that’s the amount of time they would have to wait based solely on the basis of the country in which they were born,” Lee had said, urging his colleagues to lift the country-cap on Green Card applicants.

“If you’re born anywhere else, anywhere else other than China; let’s say in Ghana, Sweden, Indonesia, basically any other country other than India your application will be considered immediately. This sort of discrimination is simply inconsistent with the principles of a merit-based immigration system and with our founding principles and the principles that unite us as Americans,” he had said.


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Almost A Month Of No New Cases And Deaths

Victorians Moving To A “COVID Normal”

It’s another good day for Victorians as 28 days of “doughnuts” is achieved. This means that the state has made it through what is widely considered to be the official benchmark for eliminating COVID-19 from the community.

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) stated that 9,828 coronavirus tests had been received since yesterday’s update, following the last active case in Victoria who was just recently discharged from hospital.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced the milestone this morning. “That is something that all Victorians should be fundamentally proud of,” he said.

As known to the public, Victoria entered the last step of its roadmap for reopening at 11:59 pm last Sunday, as it allowed larger private and public gatherings and making mask-wearing optional outdoors.

In Victoria’s original roadmap, the triggers for moving to the “COVID normal” level of restrictions were 28 days without new cases, zero active cases and “no outbreaks of concern” in other states.

That being said, the State Government has made it clear it wants to allow two weeks between each stage. Hence, Victoria is expected to move to “COVID normal summer” in December.

Nearly a month of zero cases gives Victoria a prime opportunity to say that they don’t have a local community transmission, according to epidemiologist Catherine Bennett from Deakin University.

On media, she revealed that “it’s what everybody has hoped for.”

However, provided that there are still active cases in other states and present a risk of being introduced from overseas, “prevention mode” is Victoria’s reality check on moving forward.

“Reducing the risk of transmission means even as the virus lands again or is still here somewhere where we can’t see it, then it won’t take off — and that’s the key,” Professor Bennett said.

Consequently, Emergency physician Stephen Parnis said that this milestone of no new cases is very emotional, given the high numbers recorded last August. “The fact that in about three months we’ve got to this point — no-one would have been able to suggest that we would even come close to this,” he told the media.

He admitted, though, he said the second wave was a “scary” and “exhausting” time for all the healthcare workers, saying that a few emotional scars will be left.

On a positive note, Victorians are up for excitement as the holidays are coming and restrictions are gradually eased up.

Is Victoria Close To Eliminating The Virus?


Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Victoria has registered 20,345 cases of COVID-19 and 819 deaths. Since February, Monash Medical Center has been treating the first hospitalized cases of the virus.

Shortly in April, the hospital established a new unit, specialized to treat coronavirus patients, as the number of people requiring treatment began to surge. It was built from components used at the Melbourne Grand Prix and the Melbourne Cup.

The Department of Health and Human Services recorded that the last time Victoria’s hospitals were free of coronavirus cases was February 21.

Now, given the 24-day milestone of no new cases and deaths in Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews affirmed another good news.

He announced that a Covid-19 patient released from Monash Medical Center yesterday was Victoria’s only active case. Which means all these developments might bring Victoria closer to eliminating the virus.

The man’s wife, who has also been hospitalized with the virus, was discharged last week.

However, despite the hope brought about by this good news, the Premier warned against complacency as the state begins to open up and ease restrictions.

“This is far from over, even with this run of zero days, no active cases, very strong testing performance and people who are doing the right thing,” he stated. Provided that the vaccine is yet to be rolled out, he cited that the virus is still something that people should live with for the meantime, until the foreseeable future.

Surely, it is not safe to say that the state is already virus free. Given the coronavirus cluster growing on the neighbouring states, the safety protocols will stay as they are until further mitigations are confirmed by the authorities.