News » Immigration » Hatch, Flake introduce bill to increase H-1B quota, eliminate per country cap

Hatch, Flake introduce bill to increase H-1B quota, eliminate per country cap

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The bill also wants to remove the current 20,000 visa limit for US master’s degree holders if their employers are willing to sponsor their green cards.

Lame duck Senators Orrin Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake have introduced a bill to increase the yearly H-1B via quota from the current 65,000 to 85,000.

The Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act of 2018, which was introduced on Thursday, aims to bring “long-overdue reforms to our nation’s merit-based immigration laws for high-skilled workers,” Hatch said in a statement.

The senator, who has announcement his retirement from the Senate, said the bill focuses on four areas that are “vital to maintaining the US “competitiveness in the global economy.” They are: making available H-1B visas for business that face 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.”

Similar the bill were introduced in the last two Congresses.

The bill also proposes the per country quota for green cards, which will benefit Indian and Chinese nationals. It also wants to remove the current 20,000 visa limit for US master’s degree holders if their employers are willing to sponsor their green cards.

Visit: The American Bazaar’s H-1B archive

Hatch said that, “Now more than ever, we need highly qualified workers with the skills employers need to succeed in the information economy.”

The bill proposes close to $1 billion “in new funding for STEM education and worker training programs through increases in visa fees,” Hatch said.

Flake, Arizona’s junior senator and a frequent critic of President Trump who decided not to seek re-election this November, said the bill proposes critical fixes to “a broken U.S. immigration system that has been unable to keep up with the needs of American employers.”

The senator added: “Taking these steps to foster a vibrant economy for homegrown and foreign entrepreneurs, increase access to the high-skilled talent that U.S. businesses depend on, and attract the best students in the world to U.S. universities will help ensure the United States remains a leader in innovation and global competition.”

The bill also proposes work authorizations for H4 visa holders. The Trump administration has said it will stop giving work permits to H4 visa holders, who are the spouses of H-1B visa holders.

The bill also wants to introduce a “market-based escalator” to meet the employment needs of businesses. As part of the proposal, up to 195,000 visas can be granted annually, and those with master’s degrees, Ph.D.s from international university and American STEM bachelors degrees will get priorities when it comes to H-1B.

Here are some of the measures proposed by the Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act of 2017, according to Hatch’s website:

H-1B Visas

  • 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.
  • Employmentbased 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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