Currently, more than a million applicants with approved immigrant petitions, face multi-decade delays in getting an employment-based Green Card due to the arbitrary 7% per-country-caps. This unsustainable wait comes at a tremendous personal and economic cost to the immigrants as well as to Americans. The EAGLE Act is the only immigration bill that fixes the employment-based immigration system while protecting American workers.
The overarching purpose of the employment-based (EB) Green Card system is to provide permanent residence to those individuals who add value to the US economy. In most cases, applicants utilizing the EB visa system are in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), have been educated in the best US universities, and account for over half of the post-graduate STEM degrees awarded in the US. Unlike other visa categories, 95% of the employment-based Green Card applicants already live and work in the US on temporary visas—paying taxes, contributing to our economic growth and recovery through innovation and job creation, and raising their children as Americans.
Because the US faces a general shortage of employment-based Green Cards, all EB applicants face some delay in securing permanent visas. However, the problem is exacerbated by an arbitrary cap of 7% on immigration from any single country, due to which many equally qualified EB applicants must wait far longer than applicants from other parts of the world. For instance, this wait spans several decades (150+ years) for individuals from India compared to a few short years for individuals from Egypt. For those on temporary visas, like H-1B, this wait comes at a tremendous personal and economic cost.
Even though they live and work in America, employment-based applicants facing the per country backlog:
Cannot become entrepreneurs by starting new businesses that create new American jobs
Cannot visit loved ones in home countries without risking being held back from returning to the US
Cannot accept promotions from their employers without starting over in the employment-based Green Card line
Cannot change employers without starting over in the employment-based Green Card line
Must secure international student visas for their foreign-born children once they turn 21 or face their forced deportation despite decades of lawfully residing in the US and paying taxes into local and state educational systems
Under today’s 7% cap, certain countries like India and China, which account for over 40% of the world’s population and an even higher percentage of the high-skilled global workforce, receive the same amount of visas as Denmark, a country that accounts for 0.001% of the world’s population. As a result, immigrants from certain countries, who are as qualified as any other high-skilled worker entering the US, are forced to wait 20 to 30 times longer for lawful permanent residency status (in the form of Green Card). This creates an economically unhealthy reliance on temporary visas and costs the US economy in the form of attrition of experienced high-skilled workers who are compelled to depart the US and migrate to other countries that are more welcoming towards high-skilled workers.
This system has skewed the incentives such that bad employers prefer hiring immigrant workers over American workers. This is because while waiting for Green Cards, guest workers are completely dependent on their employer for maintaining their legal stay in the United States and are restricted from changing jobs, leading to the exploitation of these immigrant workers.
Per country caps are not only bad for Immigrant workers and American workers, but they are also bad for the American economy. In a study titled “Higher‐paid Immigrants Forced to Wait Longer Due to Per‐country Limits”, the CATO institute estimates that removing national origin discrimination on employment-based Green Cards will result in raising the average wage of an employment-based immigrant by $11,592 - which is a 12% increase. Additionally, the same CATO study finds that removing the per country caps would result in America welcoming better-educated immigrants.
"But the per-country limits are also economically senseless. They prioritize the right birthplace over the right skills...Discriminating based on nationality, rather than skills, undercuts the productivity of the United States and lowers the average wage of new immigrants to the United States. … The per-country limits depress the average wage for new employer-sponsored immigrants by $11,592. In other words, the per-country limits strongly discriminate against higher-paid immigrants...Indian and Chinese immigrants are also more likely to be offered positions that require more experience and skills than other employer-sponsored immigrants."
The EAGLE (Equal Access to Green cards for Legal Employment) Act of 2021 would correct these problems by:
Creating a system where all equally qualified high-skilled workers, no matter their country of birth, will receive employment-based Green Cards in the order in which they apply and based solely on the skills they bring to America. Also, while the backlog is being cleared, the system will ensure that skilled immigrants from non-backlogged countries who are currently in line are not adversely impacted by the bill.
Enhance protection for US workers in the following ways:
For the first time ever, employers who hire foreign workers will have to advertise the jobs to American workers on a searchable Department of Labor website for at-least 30 calendar days, ensuring American workers get the first crack at these jobs.
Employers with excessive foreign workers (more than 50%) will not be able to hire any more foreign workers, ensuring a balance of American workers and immigrant workers.
For the first time ever, the Department of Labor will be authorized to set a fee to regulate the H1-B worker program instead of it being an under-funded mandate right now.
For the first time ever, there will be a statutory bar against using Business visas as work visas.
Adds whistleblower protection for employees who report illegal employer behavior to the government.
Requires employers to prove compliance with the law during every interaction with the Government, by requiring submission of all W-2’s for all H1-B visa holders each time they hire or extend the employment of an H1-B visa holder.
Gives the Department of Labor broad discretion in investigating suspect employers.
Gives foreign workers who have approved Immigrant petitions the ability to change jobs so that their employers cannot exploit them, thus, removing an incentive to discriminate against American Workers.
Makes it illegal for jobs to be advertised as “only available to H-1B workers” and ensures that H-1B workers cannot be given a preference over US Citizens.
Forces employers to justify the wages offered to the immigrant employees so an employer can no longer undercut American workers by paying low wages to immigrants.
America was labeled as the land of the free but that does not seem to be the case for people like me who have struggled through the unfair legal immigration system. Until the age of 21, I was on a dependent visa but because we are in the Green Card backlog, I have aged out of my dependent visa status. I switched to an international student visa to complete my college studies and then had to hunt for an employer to file an H1B work visa for me to continue to stay here legally, in the only home I know. The last 23 years that I have spent waiting in the Green Card backlogs for my case to be called, have been completely wasted. I am now a Mechanical Engineer / Production Manager in New Albany, Indiana. America is the only home I know and I have been here for over 95% of my life but I had to restart the ENTIRE immigration process on my own as if I just entered the country last year. I am the prime example of how unfair and unjust this system is. (With the passage of the Eagle Act), I hope no other immigrant child will go through what I have.
I am in high school, I represent my school at events for Speech and Debate. I’m also a musician. I am no different from other kids at school but being in the Green Card backlog makes me feel different, like I don’t belong here. I have to worry about my future and how muddy it is due to the foggy predicament that is the green card backlog. I am scared about aging out and being separated from my family. (With the passage of the Eagle Act)...I can stop worrying about my future, or what will happen when I reach the age of 18. I can be peaceful, and not have to worry about being separated from my family. Most of all, I will finally stop feeling like a stranger in my own country.
Being on a spousal visa, I depend on my husband’s job for my own work authorization (H4EAD). I Due to visa renewal delays, I constantly fear being forced into financial dependence. And what if my husband loses his job due to sickness or layoffs? And our son is constantly stressed about aging out when he turns 21. Being on dependent visas and in the Green Card backlog because we were born in India, we are victims of a broken immigration system. (The Eagle Act) is not an Immigration bill. It is a bill to ensure Equality for all the people who move to the U.S. Discrimination in any form is Discrimination. How does discrimination based on birth country still exist in this modern era and that too in the most developed and powerful country of the world?
I have lived in the U.S. for over 13 years and I serve as a Licensed Psychologist.. The Green Card backlog came as an utter shock to me, I never thought my birth country (India) would be held against me in such a formal way. On a spousal dependent visa I have been able to address the shortage of mental health professionals - I have served the Native American community and also students at the university where I live. The Green Card backlog forces my husband and me into a very fragile immigration limbo, we live in the constant threat of self-deportation if anything happens to my husband’s job or ability to work (due to health or other reasons). (With the passage of the Eagle Act) - I, and other immigrants like me, can expect to be treated as equals and we will have the freedom to truly live and serve the United States. I hope to develop an independent practice where I can train and empower new clinicians to serve under-served communities in the U.S., given the ongoing shortage of mental health professionals.
Please submit your story of how the Per Country Cap based discriminatory backlog has had an impact on your life.
FACT: The EAGLE Act does not add a single new Green Card or guest worker visa to the system. The main beneficiaries of the EAGLE Act are American workers, immigrants who are already living in the country, and the American economy.
FACT: There is a lengthy (decade-long) phase-in period before the system becomes purely first-come-first serve. During this phase-in period, there are provisions to prevent all employment-based Green Cards going to applicants from one country and after the phase-in period, employment-based Green Cards will go to immigrants in the order in which they applied (not all from any one country). The Congressional Research Service has examined this issue and has specifically said that “roughly four to five years would be required to eliminate this queue of prospective 3rd preference employment-based immigrants.” https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R45447
FACT: In a study titled “Higher‐paid Immigrants Forced to Wait Longer Due to Per‐country Limits”, the CATO institute estimates that "per-country limits depress the average wage for new employer-sponsored immigrants by $11,592. It also indicates that the per-country limits strongly discriminate against higher-paid immigrants...Indian and Chinese immigrants are also more likely to be offered positions that require more experience and skills than other employer-sponsored immigrants." In other words, removing national origin discrimination on employment-based Green Cards will result in raising the average wage of an employment-based immigrant by $11,592 - which is a 12% increase. The same study indicates "it makes no economic sense to continue to use country of birth as a factor in determining who receives a green card first." The study highlights how the current system prioritizes the right birthplace over the right skills. Discriminating based on nationality, rather than skills, undercuts the productivity of the United States and lowers the average wage of new immigrants to the United States. The Eagle Act would result in welcoming immigrants who have the skills and expertise required in the American economy. - https://www.cato.org/blog/higher-paid-immigrants-forced-wait-longer-due-country-limits
FACT: The EAGLE Act doesn’t add a single new Green Card, non-immigrant visa or worker in the American economy. Instead, it includes massive new protections for American Workers, highlighted as follows:
For the first time ever, employers who hire foreign workers will have to advertise the jobs to American Workers on a searchable Department of Labor website for at least 30 calendar days thus ensuring American workers can get the first crack at these jobs.
Employers with excessive foreign workers (more than 50%) will not be able to hire any more foreign workers, they will have to hire American workers.
For the first time ever, the Department of Labor will be authorized to set a fee to regulate the H1-B worker program, instead of it remaining the under-funded mandate as it is right now. For the first time ever, there will be a statutory bar against using Business visas as work visas.
The bill includes whistleblower protections for employees to report illegal employer behavior to the Government. It requires that employers prove compliance with the law during every interaction with the Government, by requiring submission of all W-2’s for all H1-B visa holders everytime they hire or extend the employment of an H1-B visa holder.
Gives the Department of Labor broad discretion in investigating suspect employers.
Gives immigrants who have approved Green Card petitions the ability to change jobs so that their employers cannot exploit them, thus removing an incentive to discriminate against American Workers.
Makes it illegal for jobs to be advertised as “only available to H-1B workers” and ensures that H-1B workers cannot be given a preference over American workers or current Green Card holders.
This forces employers to justify the wages offered to the immigrant employees so an employer can no longer undercut American workers by paying low wages to immigrants.
A section-by-section summary
The first section of the bill just defines the title of the bill.
This section removes the discriminatory per-country cap on employment-based Green Cards in a phased manner such that:
A person currently in line will NOT wait any longer in line than they otherwise would have had the bill not passed.
The supply of key skilled labor (specifically shortage occupations like Nurses and Physical therapists) will continue at current levels - but without regard to country of origin.
Fundamentally, this section just reinforces Title 6 of the civil rights Act in Immigration law which bars discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. Just as it is illegal to discriminate based on national origin when hiring someone for a job, it should be illegal to put immigrants in different lines for employment-based Green Cards depending on their national origin, more specifically, their country of birth.
Within 180 days, the Department of Labor will be required to bring up a job posting website. And before applying for H-1B visas, the positions will be posted on a searchable website managed by the Department of Labor. This will allow Americans to apply for these jobs and the Department of Labor will be able to deny H-1B petitions if a qualified American is available to do the same job.
Employers must provide a method to calculate wages offered to the H-1B worker so an employer can no longer undercut American workers by paying low wages to immigrants.
Jobs cannot be advertised as “only available to H-1B workers” and H-1B workers cannot be given a preference over US Citizens.
If an employer has previously employed an H-1B nonimmigrant, the employer must submit the W-2s of the H-1B with an H-1B extension application to show it as a proof of wages.
Any company with 50 or more employees cannot have more than 50% of their employees on work visas such as H-1B, L-1 visas. This ensures that all the outsourcing companies will have to hire American workers to operate because these companies have more than 50% of the employees on H-1B and L-1 visas.
Companies can no longer use B-1 (Temporary Business Visitor visa) in lieu of H-1B visa. Many companies today bring in foreigners on Temporary Business Visitor visas for 6 months to work in the US and use these temporary visitors to displace American workers. The current law doesn’t forbid this bad behavior. However, this bill will make this practice illegal.
Creates new requirements for investigations and dispositions of complaints against employers who hire on H-1B visas.
Employees on work visa will have whistleblower protections. It means that such employees will be able to report malpractice or visa abuse by employer and their immigration status will still be protected. Employers who are engaged in violations of H-1B visa laws and rules can be held liable to the prospective, current or former employee for lost wages and benefits.
Federal agencies like USCIS and the Department of Labor will be able to share information about H-1B petitions. The Department of Labor will have the authority to initiate an investigation based on such information.
The Department of Labor must approve Labor Condition Applications certification for wage determination as a prerequisite for filing any H-1B petition
Before the Department of Labor processes the Labor Condition Application which is a prerequisite for any employer filing for an H-1B petition, the Department of Labor will post the job on its website.
The Department of Labor will do the public disclosure of wage rates, dates of need and other information for each such job will now be done via the web in addition to the previous method of publication.
The Department of Labor will be empowered to review the employer disclosures for indications of fraud and a Labor Condition Application will not be certified if there are indicators of fraud or misrepresentation of material fact or the Labor Condition Application is obviously inaccurate.
The Department of Labor will be empowered to conduct investigations and hearings on any employer whose Labor Condition Application petition indicates fraud or misrepresentation of material facts.
The rules for the wages are tightened to say that the actual wages must relate solely to employees having substantially the same duties and responsibilities in the geographical area of intended employment, considering experience, qualifications, education, job responsibility and function, specialized knowledge and other legitimate business factors.
The prevailing wages required for the approval of Labor Condition Application (which is a prerequisite for filing H-1B petition) must reflect the best available information for the geographical area within normal commuting distance of the actual address of employment at which the H-1B nonimmigrant is or will be employed.
Changes to the Department of Labor’s investigative requirements regarding complaints made regarding Labor Condition Application compliance: Department of Labor is now armed with the power to initiate an investigation to determine whether a failure or misrepresentation has occurred.
The Department of Labor will have the power to conduct surveys on employer compliance for visa rules. The Department of Labor will have the power to conduct annual compliance audits of any employer that employs H-1B non-immigrants.
The Department of Labor shall conduct annual compliance audits of any employer with more than 100 full-time employees and more than 15% of their workers are on H-1B visas. A summary of the findings shall be made available to the public. If such an employer is audited and there is no evidence of misrepresentation or fraud, they will not be audited for four years.
The bill triples the penalties and fines for any violation of Labor Condition Application (a prerequisite for filing H-1B visa).
Lessens the requirements to launch an Labor Condition Application investigation: Removes the requirement for the Department of Labor Secretary to personally certify reasonable cause exists and the Secretary approves of it.
Removes the provision that bars investigations from being initiated by information originating at The Department of Labor.
Shortens the investigation hearing requirement from 120 days down to 60 days after the Department of Labor makes their initial determination, so justice can be served quickly.
For the first 9 years after the enactment of the bill, to reduce or eliminate the exploitation of immigrant employees on visas, after their immigrant petition is approved, the pre-qualified tax-paying law-abiding skilled legal immigrants will be allowed to file Adjustment of Status if they also meet the following conditions:
there is certification by Department of Labor that there is no willing, able and qualified American or Green Card holder to do the job; and
two (2) years have passed since the approval of their immigrant petition by US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
This provision will enable the immigrants to change jobs so they are not stuck with the same employer for decades. This provision will help reduce and eliminate the exploitation of immigrant employees by perpetually keeping them in endless backlogs. As such, it will prevent situations where employers are incentivized to hire immigrants with fewer rights more than US workers with requisite rights.
This provision will also prevent children of immigrants from ageing out, spouses will be able to work, and immigrant families will be able to travel without having to apply for new visas every year.
It’s common knowledge that stopping a good bill is a thousand times easier than passing it in the Congress. This makes it a lot easier for handful of unscrupulous and malicious folks to create an illusion of a controversy and confusion so as to create obstacles for good bills, preventing Congress from passing common sense laws.
Recently, we were made aware that a handful of individuals are spreading falsehoods regarding the text and the effects of the EAGLE Act. These individuals have a financial incentive to keep the current unconscionable and discriminatory green card allocation system.
However, there is a great invisible force in the truth. Therefore, to correct the record, here is a document describing the background and section by section details of the improvements made by the Senate to the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrant Act (H.R. 1044 in 116th Congress) to create a newer and even better bill referred to as Eagle Act of 2021:
Over the years, this bill has had bipartisan introduction and bipartisan support under different names. Here are some of these bills -
High Skilled Per Country Level Elimination Act in 2008
110th Congress – H.R.5921
Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act
112th Congress – H.R.3012/S.1857
113th Congress – H.R.633/S.293
114th Congress – H.R.213
115th Congress – H.R.392/S.281
116th Congress – H.R.1044/S.386
The Eagle Act
117th Congress – H.R.3648
Additionally, over the years, the popular and sensible provision to remove Per country limits on employment-based Green Cards has been included in many bills that were introduced and/or passed in both the House and the Senate. Some of these bills are -
I-Squared Act : S. 153 — 114th, S.2344 — 115th Congress
IDEA Act : H.R.2161 — 112th Congress
Skills Visa Act : H.R.2131 — 113th Congress
Startup Act : S.3217 — 112th, S. 310 (HR 714) — 113th, S.181 (HR 962) — 114th, S.1877 — 115th, S.328 — 116th Congress
BELIEVE Act : S.2091 – 116th, S.970 — 117th Congress
RELIEF Act : S.2603 — 116th Congress
Comprehensive Immigration Reform of 2013
A brief history of the bill is as follows:
The bill to remove Per-Country Limits from the employment-based Green Card system was first introduced in August-2008 by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and Congressman Bob Goodlatte.
The bill H.R. 3012 PASSED 389-15 under Suspension with bipartisan support, in the House of Representatives on November 29, 2011 in 113th Congress
H.R. 213 was introduced by Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in January 2015, with House Immigration Subcommittee Ranking Member Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID) as the original co-sponsors.
On July 25, 2018, during the Markup of DHS Approps bill, the House Full Appropriations Committee added H.R.392 to the DHS Approps bill by voice-vote.
In the 115th Congress, Senate companion bill S.281 had twenty (20) bipartisan Cosponsors.
In the 116th Congress, S.386, Senate companion bill was championed by Senator Lee and Senator Kamala Harris, with 31 bipartisan Senate Cosponsors.
In the House, H.R.1044 had Three Hundred plus (300+) bipartisan cosponsors, including 200+ Democratic House Offices and 99 Republican House Offices.
On July 10, 2019, House PASSED H.R.1044 with an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 365-65 votes, including 225 Democratic Representatives and 140 Republican Representatives.
In the Senate, after resolving hold from Senator Paul, Perdue, and Durbin, the amended version of the bill ensures that no one is disadvantaged from this bill.
After recommendation from USCIS, in the week of 2/24/2020, group of Senate Offices proposed changes arising from USCIS’ technical assistance to further improve on the bill.
On December 2th 2020, an amended version of the bill passed the Senate UNANIMOUSLY, however there wasn’t enough time in the legislative session in the 116th Congress to reconcile the differences with the House.