It is only Tuesday and this week has already been full of immigration proposals. After yesterday’s announcement for a blueprint for a comprehensive immigration reform, today a group of Senators has released an actual draft bill which picks up where yesterday’s proposal left off with respect to employment-based immigration. Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Marco Rubio of Florida and Chris Coons of Delaware have introduced the Immigration Innovation (I2, or I Squared) Act of 2013 which seeks to increase the H-1B quota, enhance the portability of existing H-1Bs, increase the number of employment-based green cards and allow U.S. students (especially STEM) to obtain green cards faster. See the full text of the proposed bill.
Employment-based Nonimmigrant H-1B Visas
The Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 seeks to increase the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000 and establish a dynamic “H-1B escalator” which would increase the cap based on demand during each H-1B filing season, with a maximum of 300,000. The bill also removes the cap (to unlimited number) from US advanced degree holders (currently at 20,000 per year). Dependent spouses to H-1B visa holders will be permitted to work and increased portability rules will make it easier for H-1B workers to switch employers (creating grace periods after termination, etc.).
Employment-based Green Cards
The bill would enable the recapture of green card numbers that were approved by Congress but were not used in the past. Certain categories of applicants would be exempt from the green card numbers: dependents of employment-based green cards; U.S. STEM advanced degree holders; persons with extraordinary ability and outstanding professors and researchers (under the EB-1 category). The bill would also provide for the roll-over of unused employment-based immigrant visa numbers to following fiscal year so that green cards numbers are not lost. Also, the proposal would eliminate the annual per-country limits for employment-based visa petitioners and also adjusts the per-country caps for family-based visas.
Additional Fees to be Used for U.S. Training Programs
The bill would raise the fees for H-1B and I-140 petitions and the increased fees would be used to support grant programs to the states to promote STEM education and worker retraining.
It should be noted specifically that this is simply a proposed bill, and not a law. This bill, in its current shape, is likely to undergo changes, some of which dramatic, even if it ultimately becomes a law. Since there are a number of immigration proposals circulating at this time in Congress, it is possible that this bill may be folded into a more comprehensive immigration package.
We will certainly follow developments very closely and provide updates. We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics. We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance in your immigration matters or you have any questions or comments about this article.