On July 11, 2019, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) introduced the BELIEVE Act (S. 2091) as a way to reform legal immigration to the United States. The Believe Act would abolish per-country quotas for employment-based immigration similar to H.R. 1044 which was passed by the House of Representatives on July 10, but would not result in a 7+ year wait in the Worldwide EB-3 category.

For the past few years, professionals born in India have been subject to decades-long waits to get green cards. This is because U.S. immigration laws unwisely impose a 7% per-country cap on the number of persons born in a particular country who can qualify for green cards under the employment-based and the family-based categories. However, since the H-1B and other temporary worker categories have no per-country limits, the number of professionals born in India with temporary work visas numbers is in the hundreds of thousands.

Only a little over 80,000 professionals and their spouses and children can qualify for green cards in the EB-2 and EB-3 categories annually. As a result of the per-country caps, no more than 5,600 (7%) persons from a single country can get green cards in these 2 categories each year. But there are now over 550,000 persons born in India who are waiting in line for green cards under the EB-2 and EB-3 categories.

The bottom line is that the wait to get a green card through employment for person born in India is not years, but decades! This is crazy and needs to be changed asap!

In July, the House of Representatives passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 1044) which would eliminate per-country caps for EB immigrants and raise them from 7% to 15% for family-based immigrants. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives never had a single hearing on the bill before it passed. If they had, a basic flaw in the legislation may have been uncovered prior to the vote.

While the bill would enable most Indians currently waiting in line in the EB-2 and EB-3 categories to get green cards over the next 5-6 years, it would create a tremendous wait for new EB green card applicants to get green cards wherever their place of birth. It is estimated that the worldwide EB-3 waiting time to apply for a green card would rise to 7 1/2 years.

A good example of how devastating this would be not only to intending immigrants, but to our country, is the ability of U.S. hospitals to hire registered nurses. As the baby boomers age, the need for RNs continues to grow. Already, the shortage of RNs in the U.S. numbers in the hundreds of thousands. Nursing schools in the U.S. are not producing anywhere near the number of nurses needed. With over 1,000,000 RNs expected to retire by 2030, U.S. healthcare employers are sponsoring large numbers of foreign-born nurses. Yet, there is no temporary working visa category for RNs. So, if the waiting time to immigrate a nurse increases to 7 1/2 years, our healthcare system is headed for disaster.

BELIEVE Act – A Simple Solution to EB Immigration

The BELIEVE Act not only eliminates per-country cap on EB immigration, it does what H.R. 1044 fails to do. It increases merit-based immigration to the U.S., something that President Trump advocated in a recent speech. In doing such, it gets rid of the huge backlog for Indian professionals currently waiting in line for EB green cards without creating a backlog for future applicants.

Here is how the BELIEVE Act would reform our existing broken legal immigration system:
  • Just like H.R. 1044, it would eliminate the per-country quotas for EB immigration;
  • It would raise the number of persons who could immigrate through employment from 140,000 to 270,000 annually;
  • It would not count persons in shortage occupations designated by the U.S. Department of Labor against the numerical cap. Currently, these occupations include Physical Therapists and Registered Nurses; and
  • It would not count spouses and unmarried children of EB immigrants against the numerical cap;

In addition, the BELIEVE Act would make a number of additional improvements to our immigration laws including issuing work permits to spouses and children of persons with temporary work visas.

What are the Chances of the BELIEVE Act becoming Law?

In a recent speech, President Trump advocated raising the percentage of green cards which are given to employment-based immigrants. The BELIEVE Act would make this a reality.

Since the BELIEVE Act would eliminate EB per-country quotas just like H.R. 1044, hopefully the overwhelming majority of Representatives who voted for H.R. 1044 in the House would also support the bill

I am not so sure that immigration restrictionists in Congress would support such a large increase in EB immigration as proposed in the BELIEVE Act. So, perhaps, the idea that spouses and children of EB immigrants would not be counted against immigration quotas may not survive in the final bill.

However, given the fact that our economy has doubled in size since the last increase in EB immigration occurred in 1990, one can only hope that Congress will see that permitting more highly-skilled professionals to immigrate would be of immense value both to our citizens and to our economy.

It is important that you contact your Senators and ask them to support the BELIEVE Act.