WASHINGTON, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) applauds the introduction of the Immigration Innovation Act of 2015 (S. 153) by Senators Hatch (R-UT), Klobuchar (D-MN), Rubio (R-FL), Coons (D-DE), Flake (R-AZ), and Blumenthal (D-CT). The Immigration Innovation Act (“I-Squared” Act) provides critical reforms needed in the area of high-skilled immigration(full text, Summary).
“The American economy thrives when innovation and creativity are welcomed, and job growth follows,” said AILA President Leslie Holman. She continued, “What would be best for our country are immigration reforms that ameliorate the damage caused to families and businesses by our broken system. This bipartisan measure introduced by Senator Hatch addresses many of the critical reform needs in the business immigration context. AILA believes that the provisions in the ‘I-Squared’ Act would make long overdue updates to high-skilled immigration.”
Among the bill’s provisions are the following:
- Increases the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000 and allows the cap to go up (but not above 195,000) or down (but not below 115,000), depending on actual market demand.
- Removes the existing 20,000 cap on the U.S. advanced degree exemption for H-1Bs.
- Authorizes employment for dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders.
- Recognizes that foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities have “dual intent” so they aren’t penalized for wanting to stay in the U.S. after graduation.
- Recaptures green card numbers that were approved by Congress in previous years but were not used, and continues to do so going forward.
- Exempts dependents of employment-based immigrant visa recipients, U.S. STEM advanced degree holders, persons with extraordinary ability, and outstanding professors and researchers from the employment-based green card cap.
- Eliminates annual per-country limits for employment-based visa petitioners and adjusts per-country caps for family-based immigrant visas.
- Establishes a grant program using funds from new fees added to H-1Bs and employment-based green cards to promote STEM education and worker retraining.
"I’m encouraged that this bipartisan group of Senators recognizes what so many economists and business leaders do as well: that welcoming innovative thinkers is key to economic prosperity. I’m also heartened to see members of the Senate looking past partisan rhetoric and instead focused on fixing our broken immigration system for the good of all,” concluded Ms. Holman.
On July 20th, American Immigration Lawyers Association(AILA) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) seeking the release of records concerning agency policies and procedures for the H-1B visa program. AILA had attempted to obtain these documents under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request which had been denied in full by USCIS.
This lawsuit focuses on the government’s H-1B visa review and processing procedures. Since 2008, USCIS has implemented new, more stringent procedures for review and processing and has dramatically increased the frequency of unannounced worksite inspections – expected to reach 25,000 visits in 2010 alone – in connection with H-1B cases. At the same time, USCIS has kept under secret the rules and guidelines related to the review process. The lack of publicly available information on the government’s heightened scrutiny of H-1B applications makes it particularly difficult for businesses to anticipate and meet agency expectations during the application process.
The lawsuit seeks the release of policy and other agency memoranda regarding H-1B adjudication and enforcement. Considering the full denial of AILA’s earlier FOIA request, it may be expected that the government will fight this lawsuit to prevent this disclosure. We will continue providing updates and developments on this case.