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Hatch, Flake Introduce Merit-Based, High-Skilled Immigration Bill for the 21st Century

By Bill at February 02, 2018 16:24
Filed Under: Immigration News

Washington, D.C.—Jan 25, 2018 WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced the Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act of 2018 to bring long-overdue reforms to our nation’s merit-based immigration laws for high-skilled workers. The bill focuses on areas vital to maintaining the United States’ competitiveness in the global economy: the availability of employment-based nonimmigrant visas (H-1B visas) for industries in which there is a shortage of American labor; reforms to the H-1B program to reduce fraud and help protect workers; increased access to green cards for high-skilled workers; and directing fees collected for H-1B visas and green cards to promoting STEM worker training and education. Previous versions of the bill were introduced in the last two Congresses. 

  • H–1B Visas:
    -U.S. advanced degrees: Uncaps the existing exemption (currently 20,000) for holders of U.S. master’s degrees or higher from the annual numerical limitation on H–1B visas for individuals who are being sponsored for or who will be sponsored for a green card. 
    -Statutory cap: Increases the annual base allocation of H–1B visas from 65,000 to 85,000. 
    -Market escalator: Creates a market-based escalator to allow the supply of H–1B visas to meet demand. Under the escalator, up to 110,000 additional H–1B visas (for a total of 195,000) may be granted in a fiscal year if certain demand requirements are met. 
    -Lottery prioritization: Prioritizes adjudication of cap-subject H–1B visa petitions for holders of U.S. master’s degrees or higher, holders of foreign Ph.D.’s, and holders of U.S. STEM bachelor degrees.
    -Hoarding penalties: Subjects employers who fail to employ an H–1B worker for more than 3 months during the individual’s first year of work authorization to a penalty. 
    -Prohibitions on replacement: Prohibits employers from hiring an H–1B visa holder with the purpose and intent to replace a U.S. worker. 
    -Work authorization for H–1B spouses and children: Provides work authorization for spouses and dependent children of H–1B visa holders. 
    -Worker mobility: Increases H–1B worker mobility by establishing a grace period during which H–1B visa holders can change jobs without losing legal status. 
    -Dependent employers: Updates 1998 law exempting H–1B dependent employers from certain recruitment and nondisplacement requirements. Raises from $60,000 to $100,000 the H–1B salary level at which the salary-based exemption takes effect. Narrows education-based exemption to H–1B hires with a U.S. Ph.D. Eliminates exemptions for “super-dependent” employers altogether.
  • Green Cards:
    Per-country numerical limits: Eliminates annual per-country limit for employment-based green cards and adjusts per-country caps for family-based green cards. 
    Green card recapture: Enables the recapture of green card numbers that were approved by Congress in previous years but not used. 
    Exemptions from green card cap: Exempts spouses and children of employment-based green card holders, holders of U.S. STEM master’s degrees or higher, and certain individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts and sciences from worldwide numerical caps on employment-based green cards. 
    Worker mobility: Increases worker mobility for individuals on the path to a green card by enabling such individuals to change jobs earlier in the process without losing their place in the green card line.
    Employment-based conditional green cards: Creates new conditional green card category to allow U.S. employers to sponsor university-educated foreign professionals through a separate path from H–1B.
  • Student Visas 
    Dual intent: Enables F–1 student visa holders to seek permanent resident status while a student or during Optional Practical Training (OPT).
  • STEM Education and Worker Training
    Promoting American Ingenuity Account: Increases fees for H–1B visas and employment-based green cards and directs fees toward state-administered grants to promote STEM education and worker training.

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