In response to Congress’ failure to fix our broken immigration system, President Obama has promised to take action regarding immigration before the end of the summer. While most of the speculation concerning what the President may do centers on an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the “Parole-in-Place” system, recent meetings between the Administration and immigration advocates suggest that a major reform of the legal immigration system may also be forthcoming.
Our current immigration system limits the number of green cards which may be granted under the employment-based preference system to 140,000 per year, and under the family-based categories to 226,000 per year. The State Department has always interpreted these numerical caps to include that not only the principal beneficiary, but all the derivative beneficiaries of a petition. However, this policy is subject to change since it is not mandated by law.
In the case of an employment-based petition, the principal beneficiary is the person who is being sponsored for a green card through his employer. The derivative beneficiaries are his spouse and children.
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This results in waiting times ranging from years to decades in all of the family-based categories as well as multi-year waits for some of the employment-based categories. The fact that there are no per-country quotas for H-1B and other temporary visa categories while the green card preference categories all have per-country quotas exacerbates what are already long waiting times.
Even worse, these lengthy delays for persons trying to immigrate lawfully, frequently result in their children “aging-out” and becoming separated from their parents, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Highly-skilled professionals often choose to the leave the US after receiving their advanced education here rather than having to undergo these huge waits.
In response to these concerns, President Obama is considering a policy of counting only the principal beneficiaries of visa petitions toward the numerical caps. Such a change in policy would more than double the number of green card subject to quotas and would greatly reduce the waiting times for persons immigrating to the US.
Such a change in policy would enable persons to reunite with their family members in the US expeditiously. Employers would not have to wait years obtain green cards for their foreign-born employees. Such a change in policy would allow our country to remain the world’s leader in science, technology, engineering, and other areas critical to our economy.