On September 19, 2019, the U.S. Senate held an unanimous consent vote on S. 386, the Senate version of H.R. 1044, Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019. The Senate bill contained several amendments to the House bill, which includes:
- A set-aside provision for no fewer than 5,000 visas for shortage occupations, as defined in 20 C.F.R. 656.5(a), which would include nurses and physical therapists, for Fiscal Years 2020-2028.
- Retains the H-1B internet posting requirement proposed in the Grassley Amendment to S. 386, with some change. Specifically, the H-1B internet posting requirements will not apply to an H-1B nonimmigrant who has been counted against the H-1B cap and is not eligible for a full 6-year period or an H-1B nonimmigrant authorized for portability under INA 214(n).
- Retains the “do no harm” provision for all EB petitions approved on the date of enactment and the three-year transition period for EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants, but does not include EB-5 immigrants in the transition period.
The bill was blocked by David Perdue (R-GA) so the U.S Senate will now have to consider how it wants to move the bill forward, which will likely happen next week.
As background, on February 7, 2019, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 was introduced in the House and Senate (H.R. 1044 / S. 386). This bill seeks to eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for all employment-based immigrants, and increase the per-country limitation for all family-sponsored immigrants from seven percent to 15 percent. This bill has a “do no harm” provision that states no one who is the beneficiary of an employment-based immigrant visa petition approved before the bill’s enactment shall receive a visa later than if the bill had never been enacted. The “do no harm” provision only applies to employment-based immigrants and does not apply to family-sponsored immigrants. The U.S. House passed H.R. 1044, Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, on July 10, 2019.
This bill would dramatically change the entire U.S. Permanent Residence system. Because there are no increases in the overall numbers available, or changes to how USCIS counts dependent family members, passage of this bill would impact everyone seeking permanent residence in the U.S., and will dramatically slow down the process for all. That said, it is important to remember that until this bill passes both the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House, and is signed into law by the President, no changes have been made to our current system.
SPS Immigration will provide updates as they become available.