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Jan 13 2015


Bipartisan Legislation Reforms Employment-Based H-1B and Student Visas, Increases Access to Employment-Based Green Cards, and Promotes STEM Education


Bipartisan Legislation Reforms Employment-Based H-1B and Student Visas, Increases Access to Employment-Based Green Cards, and Promotes STEM Education

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today introduced legislation, the Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act of 2015, to bring long-overdue reforms to the nation’s immigration laws for high-skilled workers.  The bill focuses on areas vital to ensuring the United States can maintain its competitiveness in the global economy: the quantity of employment-based nonimmigrant visas (H-1B visas), allowing for their growth depending on the demands of the economy while making reforms to protect workers; increased access to green cards for high-skilled workers by expanding the exemptions and eliminating the annual per country limits for employment based green cards; and reforming the fees on H-1B and green cards so those fees can be used to promote American worker retraining and education. The bill was first introduced in the 113th Congress. 

"This bill is a common sense approach to ensuring that those who have come here to be educated in high-tech fields have the ability to stay here with their families and contribute to the economy and our society,” Hatch said. “I’m calling on everyone – from the President and both sides of the aisle in Congress to the tech and business industries – to get behind this bill and use it as a launching for more progress on immigration reform. We have to find ways to make progress and solve some of the real problems facing our nation. The I-Squared Act is one of those ways and I want to work with everyone to get it done.”

The bipartisan legislation is the result of constant outreach with leaders in the business and high-tech industries.

“This is a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to help ensure the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs get their start in America, no matter where they are born,” Klobuchar said. “We need to move forward on immigration reform for the good of our economy and the good of our country, and I will continue to push for action.”

“America deserves an immigration system that works for our economy, drives innovation, and creates good paying jobs for our people,” said Rubio. “An immigration system for the 21st century will be judged by whether it provides the conditions for both security and economic growth. The reforms in this legislation lead the way to such a system, which I believe we can ultimately achieve after meeting the immediate challenges of securing our borders and improving internal enforcement.”

“The creativity, ingenuity, and determination that immigrants have brought to this county have been a large part of our economic success,” Coons said. “Our immigration system is broken, though, and while I still believe the Senate should come together again on comprehensive immigration reform, it’s important that we make progress in the areas that Democrats and Republicans do agree on, like steps to ensure that the world’s best and brightest do their work here in the United States. Inspiration is a precious resource, and if we want those ideas to be turned into job-creating innovations here in the U.S., we need to ensure those individuals can earn status here." 

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue to push for critical reforms to benefit high-skilled legal immigration and ensure that the U.S. economy has the talent it needs to be competitive in the global marketplace,” said Flake. 

“The United States cannot afford to exclude talented immigrants who have the skills, initiative and desire to fuel innovation and economic growth in America,” said Blumenthal. “Welcoming skilled workers and making it easier for them to protect their rights at work must be key components of any comprehensive immigration solution. The I-Squared Act is true to American values and good for the American economy.”

Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act of 2015

Employment-Based Nonimmigrant H-1B Visas

  • Increase the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000
  • Allow the cap to go up (but not above 195,000) within any fiscal year where early filings exceed cap and require the cap to go down in a following fiscal year (but not below 115,000) if usage at the end of any fiscal year is below that particular year’s cap
  • Uncap the existing U.S. advanced degree exemption (currently limited to 20,000 per year)
  • Authorize employment for dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders
  • Increase worker mobility by establishing a grace period during which foreign workers can change jobs and not be out of status and restoring visa revalidation for E, H, L, O and P nonimmigrant visa categories

Student Visas

  •  Allow dual intent for foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities to provide the certainty they need to ensure their future in the United States

Green Cards

  • Enable the recapture of green card numbers that were approved by Congress in previous years but were not used, and continue this policy going forward through the roll-over of unused green cards in future fiscal years to the following fiscal year
  • Exempt certain categories of persons from the employment-based green card cap:
    • Dependents of employment-based immigrant visa recipients
    • U.S. STEM advance degree holders
    • Persons with extraordinary ability
    • Outstanding professors and researchers
    • Eliminate annual per-country limits for employment based visa petitioners and adjust per-country caps for family-based immigrant visas 

U.S. STEM Education & Worker Retraining Initiative

  • Reform fees on H-1B visas and employment-based green cards; use money from these fees to fund a grant program to promote STEM education and worker retraining to be administered by the states