January 15, 2015

High-Skilled Immigration: Senate Introduces New Bill to Increase and Streamline Immigration for Foreign Professionals

The Immigration Innovation Act (“I-Squared” Act), a bipartisan measure introduced by Senator Orin Hatch, updates current law in the area of high-skilled immigration. According to Senator Hatch, “[t]his bill is a common sense approach to ensuring that those who have come here to be educated in high-tech fields have the ability to stay here with their families and contribute to the economy and our society.”

The proposed law would eliminate some of the immigration roadblocks that employers face when hiring foreign professional talent. Some of the specific changes include:

  • Increase in the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000 per fiscal year. Depending upon market demand in any given year, the cap could to go up (but not above 195,000) or down (but not below 115,000).
  • An unlimited exemption from the H-1B cap for workers holding a U.S. master’s degree or higher.
  • Employment authorization for dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders.
  • Exemptions to the current employment-based green card cap for U.S. STEM advanced degree holders, persons with extraordinary ability, and outstanding professors and researchers and others.
  • Elimination of annual per-country limits for employment-based green card applicants
  • Establishment of a grant program using funds from new fees added to H-1Bs and employment-based green cards to promote STEM education and worker retraining.

Under current law, only 65,000 new H-1B visas are available each year for employers of recently graduated foreign students and others. Last year, the government received nearly 172,500 applications, resulting in a random selection process where nearly two-thirds of the applicants were rejected. More of the same is expected this year if the I-Squared Act is not passed, leaving many large and small employers unable to fill high-skilled positions. Proponents of the Act should contact their senators and congressional representatives to indicate their support.

To learn more about H-1B visas and how you can apply, join us on January 29 for our webinar, H-1B Visas: Proving and Winning Your Case in 2015.