Bill introduced in US Senate seeks to eliminate green card backlog
Last month, on October 18, ETtech.com reported that two Senators in the United States, Democratic Party Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have jointly introduced a bill that seeks to increase the number of green cards issued every year and make other changes to the current immigration policy.
If enacted — and most immigration experts do not expect it to be passed by the Senate as it is controlled by the rival Republican Party — Indian nationals would be among the biggest beneficiaries.
According to Bill, almost four million people are on the State Department’s immigrant visa waiting list, in addition to hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the United States who are also waiting for green cards.
As the law stands, only 226,000 family green cards and 140,000 employment green cards are available annually, and many of these go to children and spouses of residents.
“One of the most serious problems in our broken immigration system is that there are not nearly enough green cards available each year. As a result, immigrants are stuck in crippling backlogs for many years,” Senator Durbin said. “The solution to this backlog is clear: increase the number of green cards. I’m proud to introduce this commonsense legislation to finally eliminate the family and employment green card backlog."
If enacted, it would double the number of green cards issued annually.
Senator Leahy, who introduced the bill along with Durbin, said, “The mismatch between the supply and demand for green cards has left millions of immigrant families in legal limbo, stuck in a years-long backlog waiting for the chance to contribute to our nation. This…legislation, the crux of which was contained in comprehensive immigration reform which overwhelmingly passed the Senate in 2013, would eliminate this backlog, and is long overdue.”
Both Senators’ efforts to pass the act on Wednesday via a fast-track ‘Unanimous Consent’ process failed, though.
Essentially, the Bill calls to classify spouses and children of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) as immediate relatives; protect “aging out” children who qualify for LPR status based on a parent’s immigration petition, and lift country caps, according to a press release.
Many children studying in the United States find themselves 'aged out' once they turn 21 and have to apply afresh for a new visa to continue studying there.
IIUSA reported that on November 5, U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced S. 2778 the Immigrant Investor Program Reform Act. The measure will finally provide a long-term reauthorization for the EB-5 Regional Center Program as well as long-overdue program integrity reforms and operational updates, including job creation for the middle class, economic development for communities across the country, and protection for immigrant investors.
The decision of Senators Rounds, Graham, and Cornyn to introduce the bill was impacted in large part by the EB-5 industry’s ability to work together and come to an agreement on many issues that until now left industry stakeholders divided.
According to EB5 Insights, The Act reflects a fair compromise between rural and urban stakeholders, providing substantial market advantages to rural and urban distressed areas while providing opportunities for “downtown” projects.
Major programmatic provisions under the Act:
Duration of Reauthorization – The program’s authorization is extended for six years through Sept. 30, 2025.
Targeted Employment Area (TEA) Definitions
Rural Area definition: The term “‘rural area” means any area that:
- is outside the boundary of any city or town with a population of 20,000 or more people; and
- is outside a metropolitan statistical area; or
- is within any census tract that is greater than 100 square miles in area and has a population density of fewer than 100 people per square mile.
Urban Distressed Area Definition: TEAs are limited to a single-census tract designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a “Qualified Opportunity Zone,” as per the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
- Establishes and maintains a $100,000 differential between the two investment levels.
- New minimum investment level for TEAs is $1,000,000.
- New non-TEA amount is $1,100,000.
- These levels are indexed to inflation going forward.
- 15% of visas for Rural.
- 15% of visas for Urban Distressed.
- Unused visas roll over annually at the end of each year to general visa pool for access by all projects in the immediately following year.
- The set-asides apply immediately to new I-526 petitions filed after enactment, but they cannot be applied retroactively towards petitions that were pending as of the date of enactment.
Transition Rules to New Program Requirements – 90 days after date of enactment the new law takes effect. Individual I-526 petitions that were pending up to the date of enactment are grandfathered and not subject to new investment amounts. Pending petitions rejected after enactment and re-filed would be subject to new investment amounts.
Backlog Relief and Suggested Additional Revenue Source – Advance Parole and work authorization.
- All pending applicants in queue (approximately 30,000) should have the option to pay a fee to enable the individual and derivatives to travel to the U.S. and obtain work authorization if they have an approved I-526 and have been waiting for three years.
- The revenues raised by the EB-5 program improvement fee/backlog fee should be maintained separately for use by Congress for programs deemed in the national interest.
- All new Investor Petitions would be required to pay an additional $50,000 that would go into the new fund.
Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF) – No bar on SWF capital in projects also funded by EB-5 capital.
Premium processing for Filed Cases 120 days – Available for both Investor and Project – $50,000.
Significant New Revenue Sources for Congress and the Agency – $50,000 program improvement fee, premium processing.
Integrity Measures to Bolster National Security and Fraud Deterrence
- DHS provided with the authority to conduct criminal background checks and obtain biometric information from individuals involved in the regional center program.
- Establish new authority for DHS to debar individuals, and suspend or terminate regional centers, based on program non-compliance.
- Clarify the authority of DHS to deny or revoke immigrant investor petitions for reasons including fraud, misrepresentation, or national security concerns.
- Establish an EB-5 Integrity Fund to provide rigorous program oversight, which would be funded by regional center program participants.
- Create thorough annual reporting and accounting requirements for regional center operators.
- Enforce strict new requirements for third-party promoters marketing or promoting regional center investment projects.
- Provide DHS with improved investigative tools to ensure that an investor’s funds are derived from legitimate and lawful sources.
- Provisions to ensure that USCIS engages in a proper and non-preferential way with any person or entity involved in the EB-5 program.
- CFIUS Reform compliance for covered transactions as per the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA).
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