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Senators Coons, Rubio, Klobuchar and Hatch introduce bill to boost U.S. competitiveness

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Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) teamed up with Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) today to introduce the Immigration Innovation (I2) Act of 2013 to bring long-overdue reforms to the nation's immigration laws for high-skilled workers and maintain the United States' global leadership in innovation.

The bill focuses on areas vital to ensuring the United States can attract the type of workers needed to grow its economy: the quantity of employment-based nonimmigrant visas (H-1B visas), allowing for their growth depending on the demands of the economy; 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; and reforming the fees on H-1B and green cards so those fees can be used to promote American worker retraining and education.

It is the first legislation introduced since a bipartisan group led by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced a major framework for comprehensive immigration reform on Monday.

"The creativity, ingenuity, and determination that immigrants have brought to this country have been a large part of our economic success," Senator Coons said. "Our immigration system is broken, though, and as the Senate gets to work on comprehensive immigration reform, it's important that we take steps to ensure that the world's best and brightest do their work here in the United States. Inspiration is a precious resource, and if we want those ideas to be turned into job-creating innovations here in the U.S., we need to make it easier for those individuals to earn status here. It is my hope that this legislation finds a home in the balanced immigration reform package ultimately considered by the Senate this year." Senator Coons is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"This 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," Senator Hatch said. "It's a market-driven path forward to fulfilling a need in our immigration system and growing the economy. It's good for workers, good for businesses trying to grow, and good for our economy." Senator Hatch is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee

"America must be a country that makes things again, that invents things, that exports to the world, and to do that we need the world's talent," Senator Klobuchar said. "Right now we're educating and training our competition by sending students who obtain advanced degrees here in the U.S. back to their home countries. We don't want them creating the next Medtronic or 3M in India, we want them creating it right here in Minnesota and across America." Senator Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"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," Senator Rubio said. "This reform is as much about modernizing our immigration system as it is about creating jobs. It'll help us attract more highly skilled workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, which will help our unemployed, underemployed, or underpaid American workers find better jobs."

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) are all original cosponsors of the bill.

The bipartisan legislation is the result of constant outreach with leaders in the immigration community and high-tech industry. The legislation has been endorsed by Microsoft, Oracle, Intel, IBM, Hewlett-Packard Company, Facebook, Texas Instruments, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The National Association of Manufacturers, BSA -- The Software Alliance, Compete America, The Semiconductor Industry Association, TechNet, TechAmerica, The Consumer Electronics Association, The Software & Information Industry Association, The Internet Association, The Computer & Communications Industry Association, The Information Technology Industry Council, The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, TechServe Alliance, The Association for Competitive Technology, The Telecommunications Industry Association, CTIA -- The Wireless Association, Sabre Holdings, The Council of Chief State School Officers, and Immigration Voice.

A summary of the bill is below:

Employment-Based Non-immigrant H-1B Visas
Increase H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000
Establish a market-based H-1B escalator so that the cap can adjust -- up or down -- to the demands of the economy (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 the cap is hit in the first 60 days when petitions may be filed, an additional 15,000 H-1B visas will be made available immediately
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
If the cap is hit during the 185-day period ending on the 275th day on which petitions may be filed, an additional 5,000 H-1B will be made available immediately
Uncap the existing U.S. advanced degree exemption (currently limited to 20,000 per year)
Authorize employment for dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders
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 nonimmigrant visa categories
Student Visas
Allow dual intent for foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities to provide the certainty they need to ensure their future in the United States
Immigrant Visas and Green Cards
Enable the recapture of green card numbers that were approved by Congress in previous years but were not used
Exempt certain categories of persons from the employment-based green card cap:
Dependents of employment-based immigrant visa recipients
U.S. STEM advance degree holders
Persons with extraordinary ability
Outstanding professors and researchers
Provide for the roll-over of unused employment-based immigrant visa numbers to the following fiscal year so future visas are not lost due to bureaucratic delays
Eliminate annual per-country limits for employment based visa petitioners and adjust per-country caps for family-based immigrant visas
U.S. STEM Education & Worker Retraining Initiative
Reform fees on H-1B visas and employment-based green cards; use money from these fees to fund a grant program to promote STEM education and worker retraining to be administered by the states
Full text of the legislation can be found here: http://coons.senate.gov/download/immigration-innovation-act

The Immigration Innovation Act is the fourth high-skilled immigration bill Senator Coons has introduced since becoming a senator.

In November 2011, Senators Coons and Rubio introduced the AGREE Act, which would eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrant visas and adjust the limitations on family-based visa petitions from 7 percent per country to 15 percent.
In May 2012, Senators Coons and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced the SMART Jobs Act to create a clear path forward for foreign-born, American-educated holders of masters and doctoral degrees in STEM fields to remain in the U.S. to work and create jobs. Upon earning their graduate degrees, these students would be allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to 12 months while they look for work related to their field of study. Once employed, the students would be allowed to change their immigration status and receive a green card. These new STEM green cards would not count toward any existing green card caps or limits.
In May 2012, Senators Coons and Rubio, with Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced the Startup Act 2.0, which would create a new STEM visa so that U.S.-educated foreign-born students who graduate with a masters or Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering or mathematics can receive a green card. It would also create an Entrepreneur's Visa for legal immigrants so they can remain in the United States and launch businesses, and would eliminate the per-country caps for employment-based immigrant visas, which hinder U.S. employers from recruiting the top-tier talent they need to grow.


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