Thursday, April 18, 2013

Senate Introduces Much-Anticipated Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill

The Senate ‘Gang of Eight’ released a comprehensive immigration reform bill - the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. 

Below are the highlights from the areas of the bill that we are tracking most closely:

Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visas for Highly Educated Talent

The bill great strides in clearing current green card backlogs and improving future access for high-skilled professionals.  It increases availability of H-1B visas, but at a cost to L-1B visas.  It also provides portability for O visas, expands honoraria for B visas and tweaks the E visa system.  

Key provisions would:
  • Create many more green cards by exempting family members, extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, multinational managers and executives, STEM Ph.D.s, and certain physicians from the 140,000 employment-based cap.  Forty percent of the 140,000 visas will go to those with advanced degrees and certain U.S. STEM degree holders.  Another 40 percent will go to EB-3, with 10 percent each to special immigrants and entrepreneurs.
  • Work to clear current green card backlogs over a seven-year period after which a new “merit-based system” will provide additional visas for persons with strong prospects in the United States.  Points will be awarded based upon family ties, education, employment and other factors.  This will supplement, not replace, the employment-sponsored green cards.  The diversity lottery and certain family-based categories will be eliminated.  It would create new visas for start-up entrepreneurs.
  • Provide dual intent for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
  • Require all H-1B employers to recruit U.S. workers that are equally or better qualified by posting a detailed job opening on a Department of Labor website for 30 days.
  • Require H-1B non-dependent employers to attest to non-displacement of U.S. workers for 90 days before and after filing of LCA (180 days before and after for dependent employers). Some exceptions exist.
  • Create a new three-level prevailing wage system for most employers – effectively upwardly adjusting wages.  The concern is that under this new proposed prevailing wage system employers would pay their foreign national workers more than their U.S. workers. 

Related Links