Bipartisan group of Senators introduces high-tech immigration bill

A bipartisan group of Senators introduced a bill yesterday that would automatically grant green cards to international graduates of U.S. universities with degrees in the STEM fields, as well as significantly increase the number of H-1B visas, reports.

The legislation was unveiled a day after a bipartisan group of eight senators announced “that they had reached a broad outline on a comprehensive immigration overhaul, including visas for highly skilled workers,” and only hours before President Obama “called for a broad overhaul of the country’s outdated immigration system” during a speech in Las Vegas.

In addition to granting green cards to international STEM graduates, the legislation, the “Immigration Innovation Act of 2013” (S. 169) proposed by sponsor Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and co-sponsors Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), would:

  • Automatically grant green cards to relatives of international workers without counting these toward the green card cap, thus freeing up more green cards for international workers;
  • Almost double the number of H-1 B visas from the current cap of 65,000 to 115,000, or even more depending on the market’s demands;
  • Grant work permits to spouses of temporary workers;
  • Make job changes easier for temporary workers;
  • Allow for unused employer-based visas to be rolled over from one year to the next;
  • Use visa processing fees paid by employers toward a fund designed to boost STEM education in the U.S.

“The bill could result in a dramatic increase in the number of skilled foreign workers and their families eligible to live and work in the United States both on a permanent and a temporary basis,” CQ notes, adding that because Senator Hatch’s bill “targets only a relatively small piece of immigration policy … it could ultimately be folded into a broad overhaul, should one gain traction in Congress.”

Proposals similar to the legislation introduced by the four senators yesterday have been circulating on the Hill in recent months [the Alliance reported]. In November, the Senate declined to take up a high-tech visa bill sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and passed by the House due to concerns among Democratic Senators that the proposal did not provide for families to live together in the U.S. while applying for their visas and that it would abolish the diversity visa program. Sen. Hatch’s bill does include “provisions easing the way for relatives of green card holders, potentially making the bill more palatable to Democrats,” CQ notes, adding that the proposal has already picked up support from major business group and some immigration advocates.”




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