A bipartisan group of representatives introduced the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment Act, or EAGLE Act, to the House on Wednesday. The act would phase out the annual country caps that currently leave some foreign workers waiting years or even decades to receive a green card.
The current immigration system prevents more than 7% of green cards from going to workers from any single country in a given year. That has created a huge backlog, particularly for Indian tech workers. The bill, which was introduced by Democrat Zoe Lofgren and Republican John Curtis, would do away with that cap and raise the per-country cap on family-based visas from 7% to 15%.
In a statement announcing the bill, Rep. Lofgren described the problem with country-based caps. "The effect has been that countries with relatively small populations are allocated the same number of visas as a relatively large-population country. The result? A person from a large-population country with extraordinary qualifications who could contribute greatly to our economy and create jobs waits behind a person with lesser qualifications from a smaller country," Lofgren said. "It makes no sense. Because of this, we are now seeing recruiters from outside America luring those with the highest skills away from the U.S. That hurts our economy."
The bill also aims to prevent any one country from monopolizing all green cards by including a nine-year phase in period, during which a certain number of green cards would be reserved for applicants from countries other than India and China, the countries with the highest demand for work visas.
The tech industry was quick to praise the bill, which is an evolution of another bill that passed the House in 2019. "The EAGLE Act will strengthen America's talent pipeline, lead to the creation of innovative new companies and products, and help the U.S. maintain our competitive edge over foreign countries," Linda Moore, CEO of the tech lobbying firm Technet, said in a statement.
The bill also includes reforms to the H-1B visa program for highly skilled workers, including additional oversight of the program, which even proponents of expanded H-1B visas seemed to support. "It also improves oversight and clarifies requirements to ensure H-1B visas are used legitimately," Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group backed by Mark Zuckerberg and other tech leaders.
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.