Biden administration pledges to improve H-1B visa process and reduce Green Card backlog

H-1B visa

Washington D.C: The White House on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to reforming the US immigration system, especially the H-1B visa programme and the Green Card backlog, which affect millions of foreign workers and their families. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Tech companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India.

Speaking at a regular press conference, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre highlighted recent efforts by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to strengthen the integrity of the US immigration system and reduce the potential for fraud. She said the Biden administration has taken action to improve the H-1B visa process and the backlog for lawful permanent residents who are eligible to become US citizens.

New rule for H-1B cap selection

Jean Pierre said that as a part of the efforts to improve the H-1B visa process, DHS published a final rule in March relating to the H-1B cap selection process. The H-1B cap is the annual limit on the number of H-1B visas that can be issued by the US government. For the fiscal year 2022, the cap is set at 65,000 for regular petitions and 20,000 for advanced degree petitions.

The final rule, which will take effect from the fiscal year 2025, implements a beneficiary-centric selection process to ensure fairness and equal opportunities for all beneficiaries, regardless of the number of registrations submitted on their behalf. Under the new rule, registrations will be selected based on unique beneficiaries, thereby reducing the potential for fraud and ensuring an equitable chance of selection.

Jean Pierre said the changes promote fairer and more equitable outcomes for H-1B visa applicants and employers. She said the Biden administration will continue its work to improve the system within its authorities, and that it has made it a priority. She referred reporters to USCIS for any specifics on the actions that the administration has taken.

Pilot programme for H-1B renewal

Jean Pierre also mentioned that in January, the Biden administration formally launched a pilot programme to renew the H-1B foreign work visas domestically. The pilot programme, which will run till April 1, is likely to benefit thousands of Indian tech professionals who are currently in the US on H-1B visas.

The pilot programme will allow H-1B visa holders who are currently in status to renew their visas in the US before a temporary trip abroad. This will save them the hassle of applying for a new visa at a US consulate or embassy in their home country, which can be time-consuming and uncertain. The pilot programme was announced during the historic State visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June last year, when he met with President Joe Biden and discussed various issues of mutual interest, including immigration.


Green Card backlog

Jean Pierre also expressed the Biden administration’s commitment to reducing the Green Card backlog, which affects millions of foreign nationals who are waiting for their permanent residency in the US. A Green Card, or a lawful permanent resident card, allows a foreign national to live and work permanently in the US. However, due to the annual limits and per-country quotas, many applicants face long delays and uncertainty in their immigration status.

Jean Pierre said the Biden administration is working to clear the backlog and ensure fairness in the US immigration system. She said the administration supports the US Citizenship Act of 2021, a comprehensive immigration reform bill that was introduced in Congress in February. The bill, among other things, proposes to eliminate the per-country caps for employment-based Green Cards, increase the number of family-based Green Cards, and create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Jean Pierre said the Biden administration believes that the US Citizenship Act of 2021 will modernise the US immigration system, promote economic growth, and enhance national security. She urged Congress to pass the bill and deliver on the promise of a fair and humane immigration system.