Latin American Immigrants Could Face Visa Backlog Under Proposed Changes In Congress

WASHINGTON
The House and Senate are negotiating a proposed change to the allocation of employment-based visas for high-skilled immigrants that could win approval this month, leading to longer wait times for Latin American immigrants while helping Indian and Chinese immigrants, who must wait years to obtain a visa under the current system.

The proposal, called the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, wouldn’t lessen the overall wait time for employment-based visas. Instead, it would distribute the backlog across all countries by changing the application system to a first-come, first-served basis. Under the existing system, no more than 7% of high-skilled immigrant visas go to a single country each year. The change would reduce the current backlog of Indian and Chinese visa applications at the expense of immigrants from other countries.

For months, Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott has objected to the bill and prevented its passage in the U.S. Senate. He argued that Florida’s economy would suffer if the current system is changed to benefit Indian and Chinese immigrants working in the tech industry.

“I’ve heard from many constituents about how this bill would impact people in Florida, especially those who came to Florida from Latin America,” Scott wrote in a Miami Herald op-ed in August. “We must look at the sectors that eliminating this cap would unjustly benefit, particularly the tech industry, and what sectors it would hurt.”

But Scott recently dropped his objections after he was able to amend the Senate version of the bill to cap the number of temporary high-skilled visa holders who are allowed to receive a green card to stay in the U.S. permanently and ban permanent visas for Chinese nationals with ties to the country’s Communist Party or military.

The temporary H1B visas, which are employer sponsored, are popular in the tech industry. The cap on green cards for H1B visa holders could make it easier for immigrants in states like Florida, where immigrants often hold visas for other types of work, to obtain green cards.

By Alex Daugherty for MIAMI HERALD
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