The Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act was introduced by Zoe Lofgren and John Curtis on June 2, 2021. The act aims to raise per-country caps for family-based visa categories. As well as, eliminate categorical per-country caps for employment-based visa categories to equalize the green card backlogs. In addition, the bill also aims to provide additional flexibility to individuals already in the US but stuck in the green card backlog. And reform the H-1B specialty occupation visa program.
Background of the EAGLE Act
The EAGLE Act is similar to the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act in many aspects. This act was also introduced by Zoe Lofgren in February 2019 and passed with great support. They amended the act four times. Subjecting it to compromise and negotiation before finally passing it through unanimous consent.
The terms and conditions of the EAGLE Act greatly reflect the final amended version of the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act presented in December 2020.
The EAGLE Act Provisions
The Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment Act consists of the following provisions:
Reducing Caps Per-Country
The act aims to phase out per-country caps for employment-based visa categories. Doing this will help to equalize the issuance of green cards for Chinese and Indian applicants. This way, it reduced the wait time for these candidates. And they would not have to wait decades to have their petitions accepted. In addition, the act will also increase the caps for per-country, family-based green card applications from 7% to 15%.
Addition of the Transition Phase
To ensure that applicants belonging to the rest of the world (except applicants from China or India) would not have to go through long waiting periods. Like, those individuals who are already in the backlog. A transition period of 9 years will be established. 30% of EB-3 and EB-2 green cards will be reserved for the applicants from the rest of the world after the first year of enactment. Whereas, 25% for the second year, 20% for the third year, 15% for the fourth year, 10% for the fifth and sixth years, 5% for years seven, eight, and nine.
Introduce a New Status for Non-Immigrant Visa Holders
Non-immigrant visa holders who are waiting in the green card backlog and are currently in the US will be provided a new status. The early adjustment of status or the early filing. The new status – will permit individuals to have more flexibility. And allow them to have extended travel rights to shift employers. The green card would be available to EB-3, EB-2, and EB-1 applicants who have had their I-140 green card petitions pending. Or had them approved for more than two years. In addition, they required applicants, who have had their petitions pending, to have a college degree. And a job offer along with a signed letter from the employer. Suppose the new status individuals have dependent children. In that case, they allowed them to retain a legal status for the duration of the green card application process as dependents of their parents. Hence, protecting them from aging out while their parents are in the backlog.
H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa Program – Series of Restrictions and Reforms
The act requires public advertisements of any job openings for job seekers who are already present in the US. Prospective H01-B employees will publish these ads on the Department of Labor website. Also, the act also implies they will investigate those H-1 B employers, and review them for failing to employ or pay H-1B workers at the occupation, rate, and location specified on the application. It will also open up a new-fees for employers who will be sponsoring H-1B workers and prevent other companies who have more than 50% of H-1B employees to hire additional workers.
They created protection and carve-outs for nurse applicants residing outside of the US. Most individuals who apply for green cards are already present in the US working on temporary H-1B visas; whereas, nurses usually apply for EB-3 green card visas from outside of the US. Hence, the act will ensure that nurses have swift access to green cards after excluding Schedule A Shortage Occupants (4,400) from the annual EB green card cap. Plus, the act will also ensure the protection of applicants who don’t belong to China or India by reserving 5.75% green cards for those belonging outside of the US – prioritizing those who have not worked or lived in the US over the past four years as well as family members.
Impact of the EAGLE Act
The employment-based backlog is currently borne entirely by Chinese and Indian applicants. For instance, successful visa applicants from India have to wait for over 80 years to get approval; whereas, a new EB-3 green card applicant from Iceland immediately gets approval. The EAGLE Act aims to minimize this imbalance, reducing backlogs and limiting the negative effects on individuals belonging to China and India.
However, the EAGLE Act will not increase the number of green cards being issues yearly. And it will not reduce the green card backlog. However, it will phase out the per-country caps, which will, in turn, reduce the never-ending wait time for many applicants. This way, the burden of the backlog will be shifted to other applicants. Additionally, it provides additional flexibility to those waiting in the US.
The high number of applicants belonging to China and India is due to the high population in the two countries. Also because of the lack of jobs in their home countries for highly skilled and educated professionals. Thus, the backlog is usually filled with applicants belonging to India, particularly in the IT sector. The provisions of the EAGLE Act will secure the chances of many Indians and Chinese individuals of getting employment and green card in the US.