U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined a bipartisan group of 10 senators today to introduce the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 to bring long-overdue reforms to the nation's immigration laws for highly-skilled immigrants working in the science and technology fields. The proposal will increase the number of temporary visas that are available to these highly-skilled immigrants, so more can remain in the United States and contribute to U.S. innovation and economic growth. This new bill complements Sen. Warner's efforts to provide green cards to foreign-born, U.S.-educated students and entrepreneurs through The Startup Act, which he introduced in 2011 and 2012.
In addition to Sen. Warner, the nine other cosponsors of the Immigration Innovation Act are Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), John Hoeven (R-ND), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
"Major employers have more jobs than they can fill with highly-trained Americans. These commonsense and overdue reforms to our high-skill immigration system will help promote innovation and economic growth across Virginia and across America," Sen. Warner said. "Our bipartisan bill reflects the growing consensus that major reforms are needed to keep the best and brightest students and skilled workers, particularly in the fields of science, technology, math, and engineering, here in America. I am advocating for the inclusion of this proposal--and STEM green cards-- as part of the comprehensive immigration overhaul currently being discussed in Washington."
The Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 focuses on three 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, expanding the exemptions and eliminating the annual per country limits for employment based green cards;
reforms to the fees on H-1B and green cards so those fees can be used to promote American worker retraining and education.
"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 Sen. Rubio. "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."
A summary of the bill is below, and the bill can be accessed here.
Immigration Innovation (I2) Act of 2013
Employment-Based Nonimmigrant 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, and 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
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.