Numerical Limits on Employment-Based Immigration: Analysis of the Per-Country Ceilings [October 11, 2011]   [open pdf - 632KB]

"The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) specifies a complex set of numerical limits and preference categories that include economic priorities among the criteria for admission. The INA allocates 140,000 visas annually for employment-based legal permanent residents (LPRs), and they were 14.2% of the total 1.0 million LPRs in FY2010. The INA further specifies that each year, countries are held to a numerical limit of 7% of the worldwide level of U.S. immigrant admissions, known as per-country limits or country caps. Even as U.S. unemployment levels remain high, some employers assert that they continue to need the 'best and the brightest' workers, regardless of their country of birth, to remain competitive in a worldwide market and to keep their firms in the United States. While support for the option of increasing employment-based immigration may be dampened by economic conditions, proponents argue it is an essential ingredient for economic growth. Those opposing increases in employment-based LPRs assert that there is no compelling evidence of labor shortages and cite the rate of unemployment across various occupations and labor markets. […] Those with approved pending cases from China seem to be more evenly split among new arrivals and those seeking to adjust status. Some argue that the per-country ceilings are arbitrary and observe that employability has nothing to do with country of birth. Others maintain that the statutory per-country ceilings restrain the dominance of high-demand countries and preserve the diversity of the immigrant flows. Legislation to revise the per-country ceilings on LPRs has been introduced in the House (H.R. 3012)."

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CRS Report for Congress, R42048
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