Biden reopens gateway for Green Cards And Work Visas: Implication & Details, Latest Policies
Photo: Quatz

President Biden on Wednesday revoked a freeze that his predecessor had put on many types of visas due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the order did not advance U.S. interests and hurt industries and individuals alike. "It harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here," Biden said in a proclamation revoking the measure.

Who was affected by Trump's ban?

President Trump said on April 2020 that he would order a temporary halt in issuing green cards to prevent people from immigrating to the United States, but he backed away from plans to suspend guest worker programs after business groups exploded in anger at the threat of losing access to foreign labor, said NYT. The halt was first enacted by Trump in June as an extension of the 2017 "Buy American, Hire American" executive order and was twice extended amid significant opposition from business groups. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Associations of Manufacturers both filed lawsuits against the administration saying the policy was detrimental to the country's economic interests.

The order by former President Donald Trump, known as Presidential Proclamation 100014, cited a need to protect US jobs amid high unemployment rates caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The goal of the move is to protect 525,000 jobs as part of the White House response to job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, said a senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity. NPR first reported the impending order on Saturday. The ban by Trump had prevented around 26,000 people from obtaining green cards monthly since last April, as per estimates from the Migration Policy Institute.

The order targets H-1B visas, which are designed for certain skilled workers such as those employed in the tech industry, as well as L-1 visas, which are meant for executives who work for large corporations. But other workers were also affected, including foreign au pairs who provide child care. Professors and scholars are not to be included in the order. The order did not apply to H-2A agriculture workers, who Trump says are necessary to ensure grocery store shelves remain stocked with fruits and vegetables. Health care workers involved in treating coronavirus patients will also be exempt.

Biden reopens gateway for Green Cards And Work Visas: Implication & Details, Latest Policies
Photo: DW

'Ambitious measures' to tackle backlog

The California immigration lawyer Curtis Morrison, who represented thousands of people whose green cards were blocked by the ban, said the blocked visas had added to an already growing backlog. "I'm thrilled for my clients who are now in a position that they can now enter the US," he told Reuters news agency. "But that backlog will take years if the administration does not take ambitious measures." Curtis Morrison said Biden will now have to tackle a growing backlog of applications that have been held up for months as the pandemic shut down most visa processing by the State Department. The process could potentially take years, he said. “It’s a backlog that Trump created,” Morrison said. “He broke the immigration system.”

Human rights advocates have been calling on the Biden administration to overturn the measure, which was set to expire on March 31. “I’m thrilled that Biden has canceled this proclamation,” Curtis Morrison, an immigration lawyer based in California, told Al Jazeera. “But I’m also worried,” said Morrison, explaining that the US is currently facing a backlog of hundreds of thousands of visa applicants. That backlog may take [Biden’s] entire first term to clear out unless he is ambitious to doing something to solve that problem.”

Biden reopens gateway for Green Cards And Work Visas: Implication & Details, Latest Policies
Photo: Scoll

What does Biden's act mean?

On Wednesday Biden said the earlier policy has prevented qualified and eligible non-U.S. residents from entering the country, "resulting, in some cases, in the delay and possible forfeiture of their opportunity ... and to realize their dreams in the United States."

Since taking office on January 20, Biden has overturned several of Trump’s anti-immigration policies, including the so-called Muslim ban and a policy that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their US asylum applications are processed. But his efforts – including a bill unveiled this month that would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people who live in the US – are expected to be met with stiff resistance by Republicans in Congress.

The reversal by the new administration means that hundreds of thousands of foreigners, who had expected to wait until the end of March for the chance to apply for the coveted visas, can do so immediately.

American tech companies use H-1B visas, which have long been considered controversial, to hire highly skilled workers outside of the nation's borders, including engineers, IT specialists, and architects. Their justification is that the companies claim there is a shortage of U.S.-resident talent. The visas are good for three years and can be renewed for a second three-year term. Prior to the shutdown, about 65,000 visas were issued each year. Critics say they serve as loopholes for businesses seeking to undercut American salaries because companies can pay foreign workers less, said NPR.

Biden reopens gateway for Green Cards And Work Visas: Implication & Details, Latest Policies
Photo: Economic Times

US Citizenship Act 2021 - Chances for those dreaming of Green Cards

What is US Citizenship Act 2021?

President Joe Biden’s proposed immigration overhaul was introduced in Congress on Thursday, kicking off what will likely be one of his most difficult legislative challenges. The legislation, known as the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 (USCA), hews closely to the outline that Biden sent to Congress on his first day in office. The proposal includes an eight-year path to citizenship for most of the roughly 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S., bolsters the nation’s refugee and asylum systems, and calls for additional technology to be used to help secure the southern border.

Who would be eligible?

Only immigrants who were in the country on or before Jan. 1, 2021, would be eligible for the legalization process. Those waiting for a Green Card for more than 10 years, would get the legal permanent residency immediately as they would be exempted from the visa cap. Having a Green Card (officially known as a Permanent Resident Card (PDF, 6.77 MB) allows you to live and work permanently in the United States.

What does it aim at?

The last time the United States significantly changed its method for awarding visas was in 1965 when Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which established the main priority of U.S. immigration policy as family reunification. Since then, the country’s population has shifted in two key ways:

(1) there has been a large influx of illegal immigrants

(2) the native population’s birthrate has dropped, portending slower economic growth and great fiscal challenges as the population shrinks.

The USCA features three key elements: an eight-year pathway to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, a focus on eliminating the backlog at the southern border, and a modest reform to the legal immigration system. Regarding the two major demographic challenges facing the United States, the USCA addresses the first, illegal immigration, but is essentially silent on the second.

The new bill, which was sent by Biden to Congress hours after he was sworn in as the president on January 20, clears employment-based visa backlogs, recapture unused visas, reduces lengthy wait times, and eliminates per-country visa caps. The new bill makes it easier for graduates of US universities with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the United States; improves access to green cards for workers in lower-wage sectors, and eliminates other unnecessary hurdles for employment-based green cards. The bill also contains provisions designed to please labor unions, which have in the past complained that certain visa programs allow companies to employ lower-paid migrant workers instead of American citizens. The bill would tie green card levels to macroeconomic conditions and establish a commission on workplace conditions comprised of union officials, civil rights advocates, and others, administration officials said.

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