While the Senate has begun debate on the fate of the “Dreamers” and President Donald J. Trump continues to press for his massive border wall, other immigration developments have been unfolding. Republican Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Jeff Flake of Arizona have introduced a bill dubbed “I-Squared” that reflects the merit-based approach both the President and others on the right have emphasized.
In an op/ed for Fox News, Hatch wrote: “In our increasingly competitive, globalized economy, it’s entirely reasonable to ask whether an immigration system that focuses more on education and skills than on country of origin and family connections might better advance America’s interests.”
Some points of note from the proposed Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 as apply to H-1B status and immigrant visas for skilled workers and professionals:
1) The H-1B cap would be raised from 65,000 to 85,000 with 20,000 set aside for individuals with master’s degrees or above. There would also be unlimited exemptions for individuals with U.S. master’s or above, regardless of field, if the employer has started or will start the process for permanent residence for the foreign nationals within one year.
2) When the cap is reached within five days of the beginning of the filing period, H-1Bs will be prioritized as such: (1) people with U.S. master’s degree or higher that are subject to numerical limitations; (2) people with doctoral degrees earned outside the U.S.; (3) individuals with U.S. bachelors or higher in a STEM field; (4) all others.
3) Monetary penalties for employers with five or more cap-subject petitions approved in a fiscal year if the H-1B individual works in the U.S. less than 25 percent of the first year.
4) Employers cannot hire H-1B workers with the “purpose and intent” of displacing U.S. workers. Does not include situations where the U.S. worker is promoted, transferred or departs. The government has the burden to prove employer’s intent.
5) Individuals in H-4 status, such as spouses of H-1B holders, may apply for employment authorization when the H-1B holder has an approved pending labor certification or I-140 petition.
6) Corporate restructuring does not require an amended petition.
7) Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State cannot deny petitions or visas for H-1Bs and L-1s involve the same employer/employee unless there was substantial change in the circumstances, new material information or a material error.
8) There is a proposed 60-day grace period for individuals in H-1B status whose employment ends prior to the end of the authorized period of admission. A new employer may file a petition during this period.
9) Employers with more than 50 employees at least 50 percent of which are in H-1B status must attest to and document evidence of recruitment and show they are not displacing U.S. workers.
10) ACWIA fees would increase based on the size of the employer company.
11) Per country limits would be eliminated for employment-based immigrant visas and increased for family-based visas. President Trump has made clear his desire to eliminate family-based immigration except for spouses and minor children.
12) Creates new employment-based conditional immigrant visas for individuals with university degrees that have an offer of employment from a qualifying U.S. employer. Conditional residents must renew their status annually and show they are engaged in the immigrant visa process.
13) Revisions to prevailing wage calculations.
14) Allows dual intent for F-1 students.
15) Streamlines procedures.
Again, these are just proposals that will no doubt be debated in the weeks ahead. Please contact this office with questions and concerns.