A bipartisan group of top US Senators has introduced a legislation in the Senate aiming at several changes in immigration norms, including doubling of H-1B visa cap and establishing a market-based escalator.
The other proposed measures include recapturing of unused Green Card numbers, eliminating country cap and recommending a series of new provisions to provide legal permanent residency to talented and brilliant.
Introduced by Senators Marco Rubio, Orrin Hatch, Amy Klobuchar, the The Immigration Innovation (I2) Act of 2013 proposes to increase H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000 and establish a market-based H-1B escalator, so that the cap can adjust to the demands of the economy.
The bill 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 it is hit in the first 60 days when petitions may be filed, an additional 15,000 H-1B visas will be made available immediately and 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.
In case 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 proposes and calls for uncapping the existing US advanced degree exemption (currently limited to 20,000 per year).
The legislation focuses on areas vital to keep US competitiveness intact in the global economy.
It proposes increased access to Green Cards for high-skilled workers by expanding the exemptions and eliminating the annual per country limits for employment based Green Cards.
The legislation also aims at reforming the fees on H-1B and Green Cards so those fees can be used to promote American worker retraining and education.
Furthermore, it authorises employment for dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders, thus meeting a long pending demand.
It also proposes to increase portability of high skilled foreign workers by removing impediments and costs of changing employers, establishing a clear transition period for foreign workers as they change jobs, and restoring visa revalidation for E, H, L, O, and P non-immigrant visa categories.
The legislation, if passed by the Congress and signed into law by the US President, will enable the recapture of Green Card numbers that were approved by Congress in previous years but were not used.
It will exempt certain categories of persons from the employment-based Green Card cap, including dependents of employment-based immigrant visa recipients, US STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) advance degree holders, persons with extraordinary ability and outstanding professors and researchers.
The legislation also provides for the roll-over of unused employment-based immigrant visa numbers to the following fiscal year so that future visas are not lost due to bureaucratic delays, and eliminate annual per-country limits for employment based visa petitioners and adjust per-country caps for family-based immigrant visas.
The legislation calls for reforming fees on H-1B visas and employment-based Green Cards and use money from these fees to fund a grant program to promote STEM education and worker.
"Our immigration system needs to be modernized to be more welcoming of highly skilled immigrants and the enormous contributions they can make to our economy and society," said Senator Rubio.
"This reform is as much about modernising our immigration system as it is about creating jobs. It'll help us attract more highly skilled workers, which will help our unemployed, underemployed or underpaid workers find better jobs," he said.
Senator Klobuchar called for making the US a front-runner in research and inventions, and said the legislation will envisage norms that will help hold back the talented students in the country.
"We don't want them (the students) creating the next Medtronic or 3M in India, we want them creating it right here in Minnesota and across America," he said.