Publication Date



Four major principles currently underlie U.S. policy on legal permanent immigration: the reunification of families, the admission of legal permanent residents (LPRs) with needed skills, the protection of refugees, and the diversity of admissions by country of origin. These principles are embodied in federal law, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) first codified in 1952. The Immigration Amendments of 1965 replaced the national origins quota system (enacted after World War I) with per-country ceilings. The Immigration Act of 1990 was the last law to significantly revise the statutory provisions on employment-based permanent immigration to the United States.

The report opens with brief explanations of the employment-based preference categories and the per-country ceilings governing annual admissions of LPRs. The focus is on the five major employment-based preference categories. The report continues with a statistical analysis of the pending caseload of approved employment-based LPR petitions. The same analyses of approved pending employment-based petitions are performed on two different sets of data: approved pending petitions with the DOS National Visa Center; and approved pending petitions with USCIS, known by the petition number as the I-485 Inventory. The report concludes with a set of legislative options to revise per-country ceilings that are meant to serve as springboards for further discussions.


Suggested Citation
Argueta, C. N. (2016). Numerical limits on permanent employment-based immigration: Analysis of the per-country ceilings (CRS Report R42048). Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.