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Bill Easing Employment-Based Visas Blocked

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) cites concerns it does not protect Americans at a time of high unemployment.

Audio

Green Card Bill

— Following years of gridlock on immigration reform, a bill to ease restrictions on employment-based visas sailed through the U.S. House of Representatives, only to meet a major roadblock in the Senate.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act would lift current limits on the number of worker visas that can be handed out to immigrants from any single country.

Currently, no more than 7 percent of the 140,000 employment-based visas granted yearly can be given to workers from, say, India or China. The bill would not raise the total number of employment-based visas.

“What this ultimately does is create a first-come, first-serve Green Card system,” said Rebecca Peters, director of legislative affairs at the American Council on International Personnel. The group represents U.S. employers who support immigration reform for highly-skilled workers.

Peters said some foreign, high-skilled employees of U.S. companies have been waiting decades for visas. She also said the bill would help the U.S. retain more foreign-born innovators who graduate from American universities.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted 389 to 15 to pass the bill.

But Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) blocked it, citing concerns that it does nothing to protect Americans seeking high-skilled jobs at a time of high unemployment.

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