Amidst the hubbub surrounding the comprehensive immigration reform plans announced last week by eight United States Senators and President Obama, a bipartisan bill targeting employment-based immigration was introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.). The Immigration Innovation (I2) Act of 2013 would enact changes that would greatly aid employers in their efforts to employ alien employees and would aid alien employees, and their employers, in their efforts to obtain permanent residency. Specifically, the bill would:
- Increase the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000.
- Establish a market-based H-1B escalator that would allow for additional H-1B slots in years with high demand.
- Allow for unlimited H-1B slots for individuals with United States advanced degrees.
- Allow for spouses of H-1B holders to obtain employment authorization.
- Exempt certain categories of individuals from the employment-based green card cap, including United States STEM advanced degree holders, persons of extraordinary ability and outstanding professors and researchers.
- Allow for unused permanent residence slots from prior years to be recaptured.
- Eliminate annual per-country limits for employment-based visas.
These changes would greatly help in reducing various immigration problems that have plagued employers and their employees for many years. Many people are hopeful that this bill will become law, either as a stand-alone bill, or as part of the comprehensive immigration reform measures that may be passed later this year.