Yesterday we focused on the shortcomings of the “Gang of 8’s” Four Pillars of Immigration Reform. Let’s take a look now at Utah Senator Orrin Hatch’s new Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 or “I-Squared Act of 2013 (S.169) (now that a catchy little ditty of a title, no?) Frankly, this is exactly what an immigration reform bill should look like if it is serious about making America competitive into the 21st century. Senator Hatch’s office released a summary, which I have paraphrased:
Employment-Based Nonimmigrant H-1B Visas
This bill Increases H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000 immediately. And, it establishes a market-based H-1B escalator, so that the cap can adjust — up or down — to the demands of the economy (includes a 300,000 ceiling on the ability of the escalator to move):
- If the cap is hit in the first 45 days when petitions may be filed, an additional 20,000 H-1B visas will be made available immediately.
- If the cap is hit in the first 60 days when petitions may be filed, an additional 15,000 H-1B visas will be made available immediately.
- If the cap is hit in the first 90 days when petitions may be filed, an additional 10,000 H-1B visas will be made available immediately.
- If the cap is hit during the 185-day period ending on the 275th day on which petitions may be filed, and additional 5,000 H-1B will be made available immediately.
The bill also uncaps the existing U.S. advanced degree exemption (currently limited to 20,000 per year) and authorizes employment for dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders.
Further, the bill increases portability of high skilled foreign workers by:
- Removing impediments and costs of changing employers;
- Establishes a clear transition period for foreign workers as they change jobs; and,
- Restores visa revalidation for E, H, L, O, and P nonimmigrant visa categories in the United States, which was taken away after the events of 9/11.
This bill allows dual intent for foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities to provide the certainty they need to ensure their future in the United States. This will make securing a student visa much easier, which is good news for our economy and our universities.
Immigrant Visas and Green Cards
The bill enables the recapture of green card numbers that were approved by Congress in previous years but were not used. This has been a huge problem in the last decade, and will substantially lessen the waiting period for immigrants currently in the proverbial “line.”
Even more importantly, the bill exempts certain categories of persons from the employment-based green card cap:
- Dependents of employment-based immigrant visa recipients
- U.S. STEM advance degree holders
- Persons with extraordinary ability; and
- Outstanding professors and researchers
Further, the bill provides for the roll-over of unused employment-based immigrant visa numbers to the following fiscal year so future visas are not lost due to bureaucratic delays
Eliminates annual per-country limits for employment based visa petitioners and adjust per-country caps for family-based immigrant visas
U.S. STEM Education & Worker Retraining Initiative
Finally, the bill increases the fees on H-1B visas and employment-based green cards and uses the money from these increased fees to fund a grant program to promote STEM education and worker retraining to be administered by the states.
Frankly speaking, other than the increase in fees, which can be somewhat justified, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this bill. While it has zero chance of passing on its own (although a straight up or down vote would likely lead to immediate passage), I believe the concepts and ideas found in this bill could very well be incorporated into the “Gang of 8” proposal, which will be the principle vehicle for moving immigration reform legislation in the Senate. Let’s congratulate Senator Hatch for his work on this bill and for leading the way on fixing a broken legal immigration system.