On November 29 the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of passing the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 3012), bipartisan legislation that would abolish the per-country numerical limits on employment-based immigrant visas. Introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on September 22 and approved by a vote of 389-15, the measure would incrementally change the current system, whereby the annual number of employment-based immigrant visas allocated to natives of any single foreign country cannot exceed 7 percent of the total number of such visas issued that year. As previously discussed, the following transitional rules would apply to employment-based visas:

  • Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 (Oct. 1, 2011-Sept. 30, 2012): 15% of visas would be allocated to immigrants who are natives of a foreign state or dependent area that was not one of the two countries with the largest numbers of natives obtaining permanent resident status during FY 2010.
  • FY 2013: 10% of visas would be allocated to immigrants who are natives of a foreign state or dependent area that was not one of the two countries with the largest numbers of natives obtaining permanent resident status during FY 2011.
  • FY 2014: 10% of visas would be allocated to immigrants who are natives of a foreign state or dependent area that was not one of the two countries with the largest numbers of natives obtaining permanent resident status during FY 2012.

In addition, the bill would increase the family-based per-country visa cap from 7 to 15% of the total number of available visas.

This legislation has been the only immigration-related measure to advance in Congress this year. A companion bill (S. 1857) was introduced in the Senate earlier this month, and has been referred to committee.

In a statement, Democratic co-sponsor Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said of the bill’s passage: “Although these are relatively small fixes, and a great deal more needs to be done, these fixes represent a balanced approach to addressing some of the long-standing problems in our broken immigration system.”