By Prarthana Mitra
Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi tabled the Immigration Innovation Bill (2018) in the House of Representatives last Thursday, proposing greater flexibility for H-1B workers to change jobs among other things. Additionally, the Act also advocated for the expansion of education-based exemptions from per-country caps, in order to reduce the Green Card backlog.
Here’s what happened
Democrat Congressman Krishnamoorthi introduced the Act with Republican lawmaker Mike Coffman, adding that it could reform and streamline the high-skilled worker visa programme and increase funding in American Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education for students enrolled in K-12, post-secondary, or college programmes.
“To develop the skills of our domestic workforce, our bill increases investments in our education system to guarantee that American workers are trained for high-tech jobs. It also reforms the visa system for highly-skilled workers which allows American businesses to compete in the global economy,” said Krishnamoorthi in a statement to the press.
“Our immigration policies must fit with the economic needs of our country,” Coffman chimed in, adding “One critical part of Congress’ job is ensuring that immigration laws match our country’s high-tech workforce requirements as well as meet the needs of H1-B visa applicants and their families.”
Here’s the Act in a nutshell
Doing away with the education-based exemption limit of 20,000 per year for student-visa holders, the Act proposes to replace it with a lottery prioritisation for cap-subject petitions for US masters or higher, foreign PhDs, and US STEM bachelor’s degrees in that order. The bill will entitle an F-1 student-visa holder to a permanent resident status while studying or undergoing Optional Practical Training.
More importantly, it creates a new conditional Green Card category to allow US employers to sponsor university-educated foreign professionals, separately from H1B.
Employers who engage more than five H-1B visa holders in their services will be penalised and prohibited from hiring an H-1B jobseeker to replace a US worker. It also requires employers to ensure that no US worker has been displaced for the Green Card holder and undertake recruitment efforts to fill the position with a US worker and offer prevailing wage not less than $100,000 per year.
It also extends work authorisation permits for spouses and dependent children of H-1B visa workers at the prevailing wage rate. Exemption from caps is extended to spouses and children of employment-based green card holders, holders of US STEM master’s degrees or higher, and individuals with extraordinary skill in arts and sciences from caps.
For green card holders
Furthermore, the fees collected for issuing H-1B visas and conditional Green Cards will be routed towards state-administered funds dedicated to STEM education and other research initiatives, as well as for training H1B workers and cater to their financial needs.
Expanding these crucial investments in training the domestic workforce will address the growing discontent and grouse towards onshore outsourcing. The bill, now referred to the House Judiciary Committee, is hoped to create jobs for the local labour market and help the American economy grow, by offsetting the enormous demand for foreign workers and cheap labour.
About the H1-B visa
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The new bill will also allow a grace period to H-1B visa holders to make switching between jobs easier and without the risk of losing their legal status and mobility rights. It also seeks to eliminate per-country limit for employment-based green cards and adjusts per-country caps for family-based green cards, besides enabling the reassignment of unused visas from previous years.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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