House Approves Elimination of Per-County Visa Caps

By a margin of 389-15, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on November 29 to approve a bill abolishing per-country limits on business visas.

If the bill goes on to pass the Senate and be signed into law, it will eliminate a rule that no single country can be granted more than 7 percent of the total number of employment-based U.S. visas issued in a given year. It will also alter family-based visa caps from 7 percent to 15 percent per country, to allow more naturalized citizens to bring loved ones to the United States.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the Democratic head of the Senate Judiciary Panel on Immigration, called per-country caps “outdated constraints” on business-friendly immigration, and vowed to act quickly to bring the bill to a vote in the Senate, The Associated Press reported.

Currently, the United States issues about 140,000 green cards each year. The new law would not change this number, but would make the U.S. visa application process a matter of first-come, first-serve, with applicants’ country of origin not taken into account.

Nasscom, an influential organization advocating for the information technology industry in India, praised the House’s action. Ameet Nivsarkar, vice president of Nasscom, told India’s Business Standard, “This will certainly ease the pressure from the other categories of work visas like H1-B.”

However, the CEO of Indian tech company Zensar Technologies, Ganesh Natarajan, told the Business Standard that a more pressing issue than per-country caps is a recent increase in visa rejections for Indians. Natarajan said, “A more collaborative immigration and business visit process is what is needed now.”

The vote should please the many prominent American business, political and academic leaders – including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and James Goodnight, CEO of SAS Institute – who have urged Congress to both lift per-country caps on business visas and to allow more to be issued each year.