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Bill Seeking an Increase in Annual H-1B Visas Introduced in US Senate

January 2018, 27
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Two Senators, Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake, belonging to the Republican Party, have brought in legislation in the Senate, seeking an increase in the annual limit of H-1B visas. It aims to facilitate the entry best and brilliant talents of the world to the US.  The Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 will provide authorisation to work for the spouses as well as dependent children of H-1B visa holders, and gives a grace period in which H-1B visa holders can change jobs without the fear of losing lawful status.

It exempts spouses/children of green card holders who are employment-based from the proposed cap.  This legislation has received the support of top American IT companies, like Facebook and Microsoft, and the trade bodies, like Information Technology Industry Council and United States Chambers of Commerce. 

Issuing a statement, both Senators stated that the bill puts a spotlight on maintaining competitiveness of the US in the international economy, providing employment-based non-immigrant visas to industries facing a shortage of native labour, reforming the H1B program for reducing fraud and helping the protection attempts for workers, added accessibility to green cards for skilled professionals and also allotting fees received for H-1B visas and green cards, in promoting education and training efforts for STEM workers. 

In the past also, versions of such a bill, had been kept before the Congress.  Today there is need of top qualified and skilled workers by employers to be successful in the information economy. High-skilled immigration is based on merit, and a functioning immigration system is greatly needed. The Immigration Innovation Act is designed to ensure that the companies can have the best and brilliant professionals in the world, who can take up highly technical and specialised jobs experiencing the shortage of native labour.

It will also address abuses experienced in the H1B regime, ensuring that jobs are not outsourced or the American wages are not lowered.  There is a funding provision of $1 billion, meant for worker training and education in STEM programs, by increasing the visa fees.

The bill is critical to suggest possible remedies to a non-working USA immigration system, which is unable to meet the demands of employers.

Taking the steps for fostering an energetic economy for all entrepreneurs, increased accessibility to the top skilled talents, and attracting the finest students to the United States universities, will allow the United States to remain at the top in innovation and face the global competition.

This bill removes the cap the exemption for United States master's degrees holders, from the annual limit on H-1B visas, for all persons who are sponsored, or who will be sponsored to get a green card.  It also proposes an increased annual allocation of H-1B visas by additional 20,000 taking it to 85,000.  Under a new scheme, up to 1, 10,000 more H-1B visas will be given in a fiscal year, when its requirements are followed. 

The bill gives a priority to United States master's degrees holders, foreign Ph.Ds and United States STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) bachelor degrees holders.  It penalizes employers, who do not use the services of an H1B worker for more than 3 months in the 1st year of work authorisation.  The bill forbids employers to hire an H-1B visa holder for replacing a US job holder. It provides authorisation to work for spouses/dependent children of holders of H-1B visa.

The H- 1B salary level has been raised from $60,000 to $100,000.  It also enables the recapture of green cards which were approved by Congress in the past and remained unused.

It is aimed at increasing worker mobility for persons who are on the path to obtaining green cards.  The legislation will modernise the H1-B visa and green card programs, encourage STEM education and train the future US workers in growth fields.  It will improve high-skilled immigration to the US and establish market-based H-1B quotas and introduce reforms to the employment-based visa system making it merit-based.  It will ensure that all employers to have access to the best international talent for competing. Moreover, it will provide sufficient investments to train and educate the US workers in STEM sphere also.

It will enable innovation, job creation, and economic development, and prevent abuses of the H-1B program which harm the US workers.

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