The Senate immigration bill reforms high-skilled components of the immigration system, and introduces a couple of new provisions and pathways. Concerning legal permanent immigration reforms, for example, the legislation will adjust employment-based green card categories and create exemptions from the caps for individuals with extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, as well as outstanding professors and researchers, STEM field doctoral degree holders, and certain physicians. To be clear, individuals in exempt categories are not counted towards any of the annual visa caps. Additionally, the bill creates a new merit-based visa designed for talented individuals that would award points based on education, employment, length of residence in the U.S., and other considerations.
Regarding temporary nonimmigrant high-skilled provisions, the legislation reforms the H-1B visa program by increasing the current visa cap from 65,000 to 110,000 per year. In subsequent years, a High Skilled Jobs Demand Index will be used to calculate annual changes to the visa cap, although the most the cap can increase or decrease each year is by 10,000 and the maximum cap is 180,000 visas annually. The bill raises the current 20,000 visa exemption for U.S. advanced degree holders to 25,000. H-1B visa holders whose employment relationship is terminated before the visas expire would be allowed a 60-day transition period to seek other employment or extend or change their status. The bill also allows work authorization for spouses and children of H-1B visa holders. Students who come to the U.S. for bachelor’s degree programs or above may obtain dual intent visas. Furthermore, the bill places limits and additional recruiting and wage requirements on companies whose workforce is more than fifty percent dependent on H-1B workers. Specifically, the bill would add a recruitment requirement for all H-1B applications stipulating that employers would be required to advertise the position on a Labor Department website for at least 30 days and offer the job to any U.S. worker who applied and is equally or better qualified than the immigrants or nonimmigrants sought.
Considering the research on high-skilled immigration and its effects on the national and local economies:
What will be the effects nationally and locally of these reforms to temporary non-immigrant and permanent high-skilled immigration, and does the bill do enough?
Do the proposed reforms strike the right balance between allowing employers to efficiently hire the talent they need while providing adequate protections for workers and alleviating abuses?
Are the recruitment and wage requirements effective methods for streamlining the hiring process for employers while protecting employees?
If not, what would be suggestions for reforming the recruitment and application process?