U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) today introduced legislation, the Immigration Innovation (I2) Act of 2013, to bring long-overdue reforms to the nation's immigration laws for high-skilled workers. The bill focuses on areas vital to ensuring the United States can maintain its competitiveness in the global economy: the quantity of employment-based nonimmigrant visas (H-1B visas), allowing for their growth depending on the demands of the economy while making reforms to protect workers; 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. 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.
"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," 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."
"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," said Klobuchar. "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."
The bipartisan legislation is the result of constant outreach with leaders in the immigration community and high-tech industry.
"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 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."
"The creativity, ingenuity, and determination that immigrants have brought to this country have been a large part of our economic success," 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."
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