New House Bill Could END Visa Backlog!

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On Friday, June 24, house lawmakers adopted an amendment to the 2023 DHS Funding bill that would recapture unused visas since 1992 and permanently end the visa backlog!

The potential number of unused green cards available to be recovered is as high as 2.1 million, but none of the previous legislative proposals for recapture  have included all of them.

So today let’s take a look at the amendment that was introduced to the DHS spending bill and how many green cards it would potentially recover.

Let’s  also discuss where the bill goes from here, how long until Congress votes on it, and the likelihood that this amendment eventually gets passed.

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New Proposal For Green Card Recapture

So what is this new amendment and how many green cards could it potentially recapture?

The new proposal was introduced by Representative Grace Meng of New York, and has been included in the house version of the DHS appropriations bill for fiscal year 2023.

If passed in the final bill, the amendment will recapture unused employment and family-based visas from 1992-2022, making them all available next year.

It would also make visas available to immigrants who weren’t allowed into the country due to Trump travel bans, and prevent future employment and family visas from going unused—effectively  ending the visa backlog.

While there are technically 2.1 million unused green cards available for recapture, there are also wildly different approaches to calculating this number, which can differ by hundreds of thousands.

The two times Congress has recaptured green cards in the past, it used the AC21 recapture method, which essentially amounts to the total number of unused employment-based green cards each year, or approximately 330,000.

Another approach—called Administrative recapture—is the most restrictive and would only recover around 230,000.

And the method proposed in the US Citizenship Act of 2021 is the most sweeping and would recover close to a million.

The language in the 2023 appropriations bill says it would recapture “the number of visas that were originally made available to family-sponsored immigrants… for fiscal years 1992 through 2021, reduced by any unused visas made available to such immigrants…”

According to a CATO report last year, the difference between the total number of family green cards made available from 1992 and 2021 is around 550,000.

So that would make this method of recapturing less than the US Citizenship Act of 2021, but more than the method previously used by Congress.

More importantly, it would ensure future backlogs wouldn’t build up, which is critical if Congress doesn’t want visa backlogs to become a permanent problem.

What’s The Likelihood Of This Passing?

But where does the bill go from here, and what is the likelihood of it actually passing?

The appropriations process is confusing, preventing most people from understanding the significance of an amendment.

To give you a quick timeline: the next step is for the House Appropriations Committee to vote on the entire DHS funding bill, which typically happens in June.

Once the House passes the bill, it then goes to the Senate for debate and additional revisions.

Once a final version of the bill is negotiated, both the House and Senate must vote again to pass it.

Only after it passes through both chambers does it then go to president Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

Fiscal year 2023 begins on October 1, 2022, so the process needs to be completed by then if congress wants to avoid a government shutdown.

Representative Grace Meng actually introduced similar amendments to the DHS budget in the previous two years, neither of which ended up in the final funding bill.

But many Republicans in Congress have expressed a willingness to recover unused green cards, with some even going so far as to introduce bills to recapture employment-based visas.

So we will need to wait and see if this amendment to the DHS funding bill survives as it makes its way through Congress in the coming months.

What do you think?

Could green card recapture finally happen this year?

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