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Legal Immigration Reform

October 1 is the start of a new fiscal year for immigration matters. It is a date many highly skilled workers in the United States are waiting for, because on that day there may be a slight chance that visa numbers will be available so their long pending green card applications can be approved. For others, it is a day when they are finally allowed to submit their applications.

Very often, it is another day of disappointment. Visa cut-off dates are so retrogressed that it can easily take five years or more for certain EB categories to become current. Just take a look at the visa bulletin graph to see what the situation looks like.

The only solution under the current immigration system: wait. And wait some more. This is basically how our system is treating some of the world's most talented professionals who have contributed significantly to our economy and technology leadership.

With Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) picking up steam once again in 2009, we at want to offer some ideas. Although our focus is on employment-based green card process, we do include other immigration issues on our wish list:

Grant light-green cards

If USCIS determines an I-485 is approvable, and is simply waiting for an immigrant visa number, they should grant a temporary "light-green" card until the application is eventually adjudicated. This would eliminate a huge amount of EAD, AP and H-1B renewals every year, benefiting both immigrants and the USCIS.

Allow AOS Filing without a visa Number

Allow people with approved labor certification and I-140 to apply for adjustment of status, even if visa numbers are not yet available. Use the visa bulletin to control when a case will be approved, not when it can be filed. Immigrants gain from early availability of EAD and AP, and USCIS benefit from more streamlined processing of AOS.

Recapture unused immigrant visas

These were already authorized by Congress, but were wasted mainly because of coordination issues between Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Simply recapturing these 200,000 lost visas will provide immediate relief to the heavily clogged legal immigration system.

Eliminate or modify the "per-country" quota system

For employment-based immigration, let's select people based on their skills and the need of this country, not their place of birth. Let engineers and scientists with similar qualifications compete on the same level, instead of punishing one who happened to be born in a large country. We already have the visa lottery program to address "diversity" concerns.

Exclude dependents from annual EB visa cap

Spouses and children consume a huge chuck of employment-based visa numbers. While dependents should continue to be able to adjust their status, they don't have to count toward the annual cap.

Create cap-exempt categories

Allow certain groups of foreign workers to be exempt from the annual employment-based visa cap. The categories may change based on economic conditions and shortage of specific skills, such as physicians, STEM professionals, people who earned advanced degrees from US institutions, etc.

Issue multiyear EAD and AP

By multiyear, we actually mean unexpired EAD and AP until I-485 is either approved or denied. Let's be honest, what exactly does USCIS look for in EAD and AP renewal applications?

Create visa category for entrepreneurs

Expand EB-5 to include entrepreneurs. They will earn permanent residence not by how much money they bring to the U.S., but by how many jobs they can create. It rewards innovation, and might just allow a foreign student with a brilliant idea, but no money, to try and succeed.

Count I-485 pending time toward Citizenship requirement

The 5-year residence requirement after becoming a legal permanent resident is necessary for U.S. citizenship: one must demonstrate his/her intention to permanently live in the United States, and that he or she has good morale characters (staying out of trouble for five years is a good indication). Having said that, however, isn't living in the U.S. for many years pursuing a green card a better demonstration of those purposes?

Grant unexpired visitor visas to elderly people

Most senior citizens come to the U.S. to visit their children and grandchildren. For people over a certain age (say 65), it is highly unlikely they are looking for jobs while being here. They can only help the economy with increased spending on food, tourism and housing.

Most of them don't even want to move to the U.S. permanently. Yet they still have to go through the pain and hassle of applying for B2 visas. What does U.S. gain for rejecting their visa applications? They won't become public charges - they can't receive any government assistance while on B2 visa - so why not make it easier for them to come and go? For folks who intend to immigrate to the U.S., they will still do that as soon as they qualify, and making it difficult to visit doesn't make any difference. In fact the number of elderly people overstaying their visas will surely drop, if they don't worry about coming back next time.

If you have other ideas, or different opinions, you are more than welcome to contact us or leave comments at our blogs.

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