The much anticipated comprehensive immigration reform bill – Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 – was introduced in the Senate by Senator Schumer, on behalf of the group of eight U.S. Senators popularly known as the ‘Gang of Eight’.
It is important to note that this is the initial phase of the law-making process. While we have outlined some of the key proposals below, some of these proposals may not be in the final version of the bill or may change before enactment.
Some of the most notable proposals contained in the 844 page legislation are as follows:
H-1B and L-1 Visas:
- The H-1B regular cap will be raised from 65,000 to 110,000 for the first fiscal year after the law is enacted. Cap numbers for subsequent years will be calculated annually based on a ‘High Skilled Jobs Demand Index’ and could go up to 180,000.
- H1B Cap Exemption for Advanced Degree Holders will be increased from 20,000 to 25,000 for advanced degree graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from a U.S. institute of higher learning.
- Enhanced fees for employers who employ a significant number of employees on H-1B or L-1 (called ‘H1B Dependent Employers’) as below:
No. of Employees employed
% of Employees on H-1B or L-1 Status (who don’t have Green Card pending)
50 or more employees
More than 30% but less than 50%
50 or more employees
More than 50%
- Companies that have more than 75% of their workers on H-1B or L-1 will be banned from bringing in any additional workers in the first year. The percentage will come down to 65% in the second year and 50% in the third year.
- Employers will be required to post a detailed job opening for 30 days before hiring an H1B applicant to fill that position on ayet to be createdDepartment of Laborwebsite.
- Spouses of H1B workers may be eligible for employment authorization if they come from a country that provides reciprocal treatment to spouses of U.S. citizens.
Employment Based Green Cards:
1. The following employment-based Green Card categories to be exempted from annual numerical limits:
a. Aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics;
b. Outstanding professors and researchers;
c. Multinational executives and managers;
d. Doctoral degree holders in any field; and
e. Certain physicians.
2. The percentage of employment-based visas under the EB-3 category will be increased to 40%.40% of available visas will be allocated to advanced degree professionals in the sciences, arts, professions or business and STEM Master’s degree holders who earned their degree in the five years preceding the petition.
3. Creation of a new startup visa for foreign entrepreneurs.
4. Five years after the enactment of the bill, the Merit Based Visa will go into effect (See Below).
Family Based Green Cards:
1. The spouse and minor children of LPR’s (Green Card holders) will be included in the definition of ‘Immediate Relatives,’ similar to that currently of U.S. Citizens.
2. The current system of four preference categories based on family relationships is to be replaced with a new system with only two family preference categories:
a. Unmarried adult children of U.S. Citizen;
b. Married adult children of U.S. Citizens who file before age 31, and unmarried adult children of LPR’s.
3. The Family Preference category for brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens will be eliminated 18 months after these provisions become law. Those whose petitions are pending when the category is eliminated will still be eligible for immigrant visas.
4. Green Cards under the married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens’ category to be restricted to only those sons and daughters who are under 31 years of age.
- The Diversity Visa Program (Green Card Lottery) to be abolished. Those selected in 2013 and 2014 will remain eligible to receive the Green Card.
Merit Based Visa:
- Under the Merit Based Visa system, applicants are awarded points based on their education, employment, length of residence in the U.S. and other considerations. Those with the most points can earn a Green Card. Presumably, no employer sponsorship will be required for the Merit Based Visa.
- 120,000 such visas will be available annually. The number of visas would increase by 5% per year if demand exceeds supply in any year where unemployment is under 8.5%. There will be a maximum cap of 250,000 visas.
- A new nonimmigrant classification known as the W-Visa is to be introduced for aliens coming to the U.S. to perform services or labor for a registered employer in a registered position.
- The cap for W visas will be split into two six month segments in a year (similar to the H-2B).
- The annual cap on W visas is limited for the first four years – 20,000 for the first year; 35,000 the second year; 55,000 the third year and 75,000 the fourth year. Thereafter the cap will be calculated annually.
- An independent agency called the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research is to be established that will devise a methodology to determine the annual change to the cap for W nonimmigrants.
The bill also contains these important provisions:
- Introduction of ‘Registered Provisional Immigrant Status’ to certain individuals in the U.S. in unlawful status (Immigrants in RPI status can work for any employer and travel outside of the U.S. and may adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident Status later through the Merit Based System if certain conditions have been satisfied.);
- People in DREAM Act Status and the Agricultural Program could obtain Green Cards in 5 years; and
- DREAM Act kids will be eligible for citizenship immediately after receiving their Green Cards.
We are following the discussions and debates closely and will keep you informed of further developments as the bill progresses through the Senate.