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Complete Guide to the EAGLE Act
If you are a professional working in the U.S., you probably have an employment-based visa like the H1B or L1 visa. Many professions aspire to get a green card, which makes them permanent residents in the U.S. Getting a green card opens up opportunities to pursue your dreams because you are not bound by visa restrictions.
Unfortunately, the U.S. only issues 140,000 green cards each year. To make matters worse, there is a 7% per-country cap on green cards. This means if you are from China or India, you compete with all the other applicants from your country to get one of the 9,800 visas assigned to your country.
As a result, there are many qualified applicants from high-population countries that end up in a backlog waiting for a green card. This is not good for you as a working professional, and it is also not good for the U.S. economy.
The EAGLE Act aims to phase out the per-country limit on green cards. Let’s take a look at the details.
What Is HR 3648 (EAGLE Act)?
The Equal Access to Green cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act of 2021 has been introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives. The EAGLE Act aims to phase out the per-country limit on employment-based immigrant visas.
The Act provides for a nine-year transition phase for this limit to be removed. During this nine-year transition, there will be visas reserved for lower admission states, no country may receive more than 25% of reserved visas, and no country may receive more than 85% of unreserved visas.
It also wants to introduce an increase in the per-country percentage of family-sponsored visas to 15%.
Why Was the EAGLE Act Created?
In the mid-20th century, the U.S. introduced a per-country limit on employment-based immigrant visas. The basic framework for allocating immigrant visas was last seriously updated in 1990 when Congress established the worldwide numerical limits on visas that still exist today.
As per the Immigration and Nationality Act, of the total 140,000 employment-based green cards available per year, there is a limit of 7%, or 9,800, visas per country per year. This per-country cap is fixed, irrespective of the size of the country.
This means countries with relatively small populations are currently allocated the same number of visas as countries with relatively large populations. A country like Iceland with a population of 338,000 can be awarded the same number of green cards as a country like India that has a population of more than 1,3 billion people.
This disproportionately negatively affects green card applicants from countries such as India and China. There may be many qualified green card applicants that can’t be awarded a green card because the per-country quota for their country of origin has already been filled. A person with lesser qualifications from a smaller country could get a green card instead.
The EAGLE Act argues that the U.S. economy will benefit from phasing out the current 7% per-country limit on employment-based green cards. Without this per-country limit, American employers can hire immigrants based on their merit, not their birthplace.
EAGLE Act Transition Rules
The EAGLE Act provides for nine years for the 7% per-country green card limit to be removed. There are clear proposed rules for each fiscal year of the nine-year transition period.
To better the transition and not have major two countries (like India, China) take up all of the visa applications, there are suggested limits on the percentages of visas that should be reserved for smaller countries, and the percentage that should be allocated to major countries.
|Percentage of visas reserved for smaller countries||Percentage of visas allocated based on merit, not nationality|
|Fiscal Year 1||30%||70%|
|Fiscal Year 2||25%||75%|
|Fiscal Year 3||20%||80%|
|Fiscal Year 4||15%||85%|
|Fiscal Year 5 &6||10%||90%|
|Fiscal Year 7, 8 & 9||5%||95%|
During the 9 year transition period, if there are any unissued visas leftover, then those visas should be given to the remaining applicants in line without applying any nationality restrictions.
EAGLE Act and Schedule A Workers
During the transition period, the EAGLE Act proposes to add a reserved 4,400 immigrant visas for Shortage Occupations (as described in Section 656.5.a). These reserved green cards will not be taken from the reserved pool set aside for the rest of the year. If the Schedule A worker has a dependent, the dependent would be entitled to get an unreserved visa considered in the same application.
EAGLE Act Changes to H1B and LCA Processes
All the H1B Visa Program and Labor Condition Applications (LCA) related amendments from previous bills are added to the EAGLE Act.
These include –
- Posting H1B jobs on a searchable internet website maintained by the Department of Labour.
- H1B visas can no longer be a requirement for a post.
- Prevailing wage enforcement will make sure employers are obligated to pay the actual wages for that geographic area for a similar job with similar duties.
- The 50-50 clause states that the sum for H1B and L1 visa holders cannot be more than 50% of total employees.
How Will the EAGLE Act Affect Adjustment of Status, Dependent, and EAD Provisions?
The EAGLE Act will also affect other aspects of immigration such as adjustment of status.
The EAGLE Act will speed up the adjustment of status I-485 applications. If you apply for adjustment of status, your dependent children will continue to qualify to apply for a green card, irrespective of their age. If you apply for adjustment of status, your employer is also obligated to provide conditions, working hours, compensation, duties, etc. that are similar to U.S. workers working in the same area.
Any Employment Authorization Application needs to include a Bona Fide Job Offer. This is also known as the I-485 Supplement J. The USCIS may ask you to file I-485 Supplement J if they need it to adjudicate your application.
When Would the EAGLE Act Become Law?
The EAGLE Act was introduced to the House on June 1st, 2021. If the bill went through, it would be effective from the first day of the second fiscal year after the bill is passed and signed into law.
The fiscal year starts on Oct 1st. If the bill is passed before Oct 1st, 2021, then it would be effective from Oct 1st, 2022.
Is It Guaranteed that the EAGLE Act will Become Law?
Unfortunately, it is not guaranteed that the EAGLE Acy will become law. Over the years, there have been many bills regarding green card allocations that have been proposed. Bills like HR 1044 and S386 have gone through the hoops but haven’t been enacted.
However, there is hope that the EAGLE Act will become law. The EAGLE Act is similar to the previous bill that was passed in the Senate in December 2020.
But it is still too early to say for sure. This bill still has a long way to go.
- What Does the Constitution Say About Immigration?
- Child Status Protection Act (CSPA)
- What is Immigration Reform?
The U.S. only issues 140,000 green cards each year. To make matters worse, there is a 7% per-country cap on green cards. This means if you are from China or India, you compete with all the other applicants from your country to get one of the 9,800 visas assigned to your country.
This means there are many qualified applicants from high-population countries that end up in a backlog waiting for a green card.
The EAGLE Act aims to phase out the per-country limit on green cards.