The House today overwhelmingly passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, H.R. 3012, a bill that ends per-country caps on employment-based immigrant visas in favor of a "first come, first serve" system. It also increases the per-country cap for family-sponsored immigrant visas. However, the total number of immigrant visas issued each year will not increase under this legislation.
For Hawaii's Filipino community, this bill could reunite thousands of families if it becomes law.
"When my mother, brother and I first came to Hawaii, we had to make the painful decision to leave my baby brother and grandparents in Japan," said Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii). "While we were able to reunite two years later, I know the pain families separated across oceans feel is greater than one can describe.
"This legislation will help families struggling to reunite with loved-ones. For Filipinos, who must contend with some of the longest waits of any country for family-sponsored immigration, this bill will cut that wait and double the number of visas awarded to the Philippines."
Of the 226,000 family-based immigration visas awarded world-wide, the per-country limit is 15,820. Should the bill become law, that limit will increase to almost 34,000 visas.
At present, the waiting time for the Filipino married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens is the longest for any country. Only those who submitted applications before July 1992 are currently being considered. This new legislation will help clear this backlog.
"These long waits are one reason why I introduced legislation to address what's preventing adult married children of Filipino World War II veterans from immigrating to the United States," said Hirono. "Most of these veterans, who were denied the full veterans' benefits they were promised, are in their 80s and 90s and would benefit from the care of their adult children. Passage of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act will help to reduce the backlog and waiting times."
H.R. 3012 will now be passed on to the U.S. Senate for consideration.