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New Legislation Could Completely Upend How Green Cards Are Distributed January 25, 2019

Financial District, Manhattan
New Legislation Could Completely Upend How Green Cards Are Distributed, Manhattan, New York

Under current immigration law, highly skilled foreign workers may be eligible for a green card, allowing them to live and work in the United States indefinitely. The existing policy is to limit green cards on a per-country basis, which has created extensive backlogs for hopeful immigrants from India, China, and other large countries. While this is a recognized problem among immigration attorneys and advocates, one solution working its way through Congress would shift the backlog to other groups, essentially cutting off access to Canadians and others from smaller countries.

Proposed Legislation to Assign Green Cards by Wait Time

An amendment introduced by outgoing Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) would eliminate the per-country cap on green cards for highly skilled workers. Instead, residency would be granted based on the applicant’s wait times, which would disproportionately affect those applying from countries without a significant backlog.

The Effect on Other Applicants

immigration lawBecause so many applicants from India, China, and the Philippines have been waiting years for a green card, permanent residency would go exclusively to members of these groups for a decade or more. Meanwhile, applicants from Canada and those without an H-1B visa will have to wait until this backlog is cleared, essentially creating another bottleneck in green card processing.

The Impact on Other Industries

The tech industry, which employs a significant portion of highly skilled Indian workers, has championed reform that would allow this group to obtain permanent residency. However, the changes proposed by Rep. Yoder would negatively impact other industries whose workers do not qualify for an H-1B visa. The health care industry, for example, would be unable to hire highly skilled foreign-born nurses, who usually must have a green card before obtaining employment.

The Status of the Legislation

Currently, the amendment to US immigration law is in committee and must be passed by both houses and signed by the president before going into effect. While Rep. Yoder lost his seat in the last election, the amendment he sponsored may still pass, as it has been attached to the important Homeland Security Appropriations Bill for 2019.


US immigration law is constantly changing, which is why clients from around the world rely on Berd & Klauss, PLLC, one of New York City’s most respected and accomplished law firms. Their attorneys pride themselves on continuously updating their knowledge base and providing insight based on the most recent legislative developments and guidance updates. Visit their website for an overview of their immigration law services, or call (212) 461-7152 to discuss your options with an experienced attorney.