Immigration: Should Immigration Have Visa Caps?

Cynthia Exner and Associates
Cynthia Exner and Associates

A Visa Cap means that only a limited number of visas can be issued each fiscal year in a certain visa category. 


In the categories of Marriage to a US Citizen and Minor Child of a US citizen there are no visa caps, which means that there is no limit on the number of visas that US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can issue each year in these categories.


In other categories, immigration regulations state that no more than 20% of the total visas issued, can be issued to nationals of any one country.  Most countries don’t reach anywhere near that 20% cap limit.  However, there are 4 countries from which we have so many immigrants coming to the US that nationals from those countries would use up all of the yearly allotment of visas if not for the 20% cap limit.  Nationals from China, India, Mexico and Philippines come to the US more than from any other countries worldwide.  Therefore, the 20% cap limitation is reached for these countries.  As a result, there are severe backlogs in certain categories, for national from these countries.  For example, the Filipino brother or sister of an adult US citizen may wait approximately 23+ years to immigrate to the US because USCIS is currently working on cases filed before April 22, 1990 in that category.


In the H-1B category, which is referred to as Professionals of Specialty Occupations possessing at least the equivalent of a 4-year college degree, there are only 65,000 visas issued annually.  USCIS works on a fiscal year, from October 1-September 30.  In the H-1B category, applications can be filed no earlier than 6 months in advance of the October 1st issuance date.  Between April 1-April 8, 2013 USCIS received more than 65,000 applications, which meant that the visa cap was reached in 8 days!  The next 65,000 won’t become available until next October, 2014, with an application date of April 1, 2014.


Cancelation of Removal is a process available to foreign nationals who are in Deportation/Removal proceedings before an immigration judge.  The criteria for Cancelation of Removal are very stringent.  An applicant must show that he/she has been in the US for more than 10 years before ever being placed into deportation/removal proceedings, be of good moral character, and have a parent or spouse or child who is a permanent resident or US citizen who would suffer extreme and unusual hardship if the foreign national were removed from the US.  Extreme hardship may be that the foreign national is married to a US citizen who is a quadriplegic who depends on the foreign national to care for their US citizen children, or the couple may have a blind US citizen child who is learning braille and sign language in the US and cannot go to live outside the US, or other such extreme cases.  These foreign nationals involved in Cancelation of Removal cases are outstanding individuals, otherwise they would not qualify for this process.  There are only 4,000 Cancelation of Removal visas available each year to individuals from the entire world.  Even though our government was closed for several weeks in October (the beginning of USCIS fiscal year when the new visa numbers became available), indications are that the cap was reached on October 1, 2013, while the government was closed!


Our government wants to encourage people to come to the US legally.  How can this happen, when visa numbers are available for only ONE DAY PER YEAR?  Businesses like Microsoft, Disney, Google are supposed to file on only one day per year for all of the staff that they need from overseas?  Brothers and sisters are supposed to wait for 23 years to be reunited?  Visa caps do not exist in a vacuum.  Country conditions in the foreign country may be intolerable; people are killed daily in other countries based on their religious beliefs, gender, national origin, political views, etc.  Some foreign nationals won’t survive for another year.  If Sen. John Boehner’s brother or sister were waiting overseas, would he feel differently about US immigration reform?





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