How Immigration Reform Revamps Employment Visas

A second part of the merit-based program is for immigrants who have worked in the U.S. for 10 years or more, and appears to be geared toward allowing undocumented immigrants transition immigration status from probationary to permanent. That part of the program won't use a point system, however, and will have no annual limit on the number of green cards available.

A Big Chunk of Employment-Based Visas Will Be Freed Up

Part of the bill will allow permanent residents to bring their spouses and children into the country, without any yearly limit on how many people can come in.

As I wrote on Tuesday, that's important because it makes the idea of immigrating to the U.S. more appealing, since green card holders will be able to bring their immediate family with them.

But there's another benefit. Employment-based green cards are capped at 140,000 per year. In the 2012 fiscal year, spouses and children of green-card holders used 78,000 of those visas. Under the Senate bill, those visas will be freed up for new workers.

Big Picture

With all these changes to employment-based immigration, will it now outweigh family-based immigration?

Madeleine Sumption said she wasn't sure, but that the Migration Policy Institute is working to come up with some numbers.

"In terms of the basic layout, yes, the share of immigration that comes under employment will go up," she said. "That said, there's quite a lot of family in the bill, as well."

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a chief architect of the bill, has said that the system would go from having about 75 percent of visas awarded on family ties to about 50 percent.

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