The United States is a nation of legal immigrants who work hard to contribute to and improve our communities each and every day.
Ensuring that our legal immigration system is fair and orderly is a priority of mine in Congress. Partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, processing delays at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allowed 122,000 family-preference employment-backed visas to go unused in the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20), causing this year’s backlog to rise to 226,000.
According to recent court filings, USCIS is at risk of wasting almost 83,000 employment-based visas that expired on October 1st, 2021. This is in addition to 9,100 unused employment-based visas from FY20.
These processing delays put tens of thousands of employment-based visas at risk of being wasted. This could cause staffing shortages for many businesses that rely on employing legal immigrants, thus impacting the American economy at large and leaving thousands of visa applicants uncertain about their future.
That is why I introduced the Preserving Employment Visas Act, to allow the USCIS to preserve these unused employment-based visas for use in FY20 and FY21. This availability of employment-based visas presents a unique opportunity to reduce the green card backlog and improve American competitiveness through legal immigration.
Wasting these visas would be a major loss to American economic competitiveness and to the healthcare industry. American businesses and healthcare providers were already struggling to fill both skilled and unskilled jobs before COVID-19 and continue to face labor shortages during our recovery from the pandemic.
These visas are already authorized by Congress and would have been used if not for the COVID-19 pandemic. My legislation would fuel the American recovery from COVID-19, contribute to long-term economic growth, and provide relief for healthcare providers by reducing the green card backlog.
The United States is a land of opportunity and I believe that we as a country can do better to strengthen our immigration system by fostering legal immigration through passing my bill, the Preserving Employment Visas Act.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and currently represents Iowa’s Second District in the United States House of Representatives.
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