President Obama is being pressured by the business community to soon use his executive authority to make major changes to assist legal immigration. He is taking these steps in the absence of any congressional action on immigration reform, and they are likely to have a major impact on our country’s immigration policy going forward.
1. The President would “recapture” extra visas that went unissued in the past. Current law provides that most individuals seeking green cards in the U.S. must be sponsored by a family member or prospective employer. These sponsorship petitions are further subdivided in various “preferences” based on the nature of the job or the family relationship. There are annual numerical limits or caps for each preference category. When all of those visas in any category are not used up, they are simply canceled.
President Obama is considering changing this policy so the unused visas will be reallocated to other visa categories that are currently backlogged rather than being canceled. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that would open up about 250,000 visas, which would obviously have quite an impact.
2. The U.S. now issues 140,000 employment-based permanent visas or green cards each year, half of which go to dependants. The President would change the way visas are allocated so that only the primary beneficiary would be included against the visa cap, not the beneficiary's spouse or children.
Presently a primary applicant with a spouse and 3 children takes up five visas. If such a change was implemented, the dependants would still get green cards at the same time as the primary beneficiary, but only one visa would be allocated for cap purposes. This would create thousands of additional visas for people waiting “in line.”
Although the White House has been increasingly vague about the timing of the promised Executive Action, we hope to know soon which actions the Present will take. In the interim, it is important that we pay close attention to any reforms and how they will affect us, particularly with regards to the employment-based visa categories and their new regulations.
Mitchell C. ZwaikLong Island, NY
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