New twist in H-1B saga as US Senate moves to abolish per-country visa caps

Means India no longer has the same number of visas to bid for as tiny countries


The US Senate has passed a draft law that will abolish per-country caps on visas for skilled workers.

The S.386 - Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 was passed by the House in 2019, and on Wednesday slipped through the Senate, too.

The law’s sponsor, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), has argued that capping the number of visas that can be issued to a country is “de facto country-of-origin discrimination."

“Because immigrants from countries with large populations are restricted to receiving the same number of visas as immigrants from smaller countries, their wait times have ballooned, in some cases stretching on for literally decades,” he added.

Lee has also said that demand for green cards among citizens of India is so great that the previous quota system meant a 200-year waiting period. His mention of India is notable because access to US visas is a domestic political issue: Indians aspire to make it in America, and expats like Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, and George and Thomas Kurian are revered for having done so.

The senator’s amendments to the bill do away with per-country caps, but also limit a single nation to 85 percent of all visas awarded in a single year. The lobby group U.S. Tech Workers opposed the bill.

While the proposed law will open the door for more skilled tech workers from India to win H-1B visas, it doesn’t change the Trump administration’s plan for the work permits to be assigned to very highly-paid workers first as a means to avoid imported workers undercutting the salaries expected by American residents.

Big tech firms quickly threw flaming sueballs at the administration’s plan on grounds it would deny them access to the talented people they need and harm the economy.

Also on Wednesday, a California judge smacked down the administration’s new H-1B plan on grounds that it was implemented without sufficient notice or consultation, and in any event would not bring about the policy objective of a boost to the US economy. That ruling preceded the Senate vote by just a few hours.

It is unclear if President Trump will sign or veto the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. He has ten days to make up his mind. ®

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