ANNOUNCED AS TEMPORARYNo
Labour market access
An immigration reform bill now working its way through the U.S. Congress is aimed principally at dealing with the issue of illegal immigration in the United States, especially the treatment of undocumented workers and their potential achievement of citizenship. The bill also deals with other aspects of immigration, however, including the granting of visas to temporary workers in specialized fields.
The Senate Judiciary Committee began consideration of a draft bill on May 9, 2013. Designated as S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is largely the product of negotiations among a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight. Among the many provisions in this bill, which as of May 22, 2013 was 867 pages in length, is one (Section 4101) entitled Market-Based H-1B Visa Limits. At issue here is the H-1B non-immigrant visa. Provided for under section 101(a)(15)(H) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, these visas allow employers temporarily to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. A specialty occupation requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor. Among the fields in which these visas are most commonly granted are computer programing, biotechnology, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, medicine and health, and education. This further requires the attainment of a bachelor's degree or its equivalent as a minimum.
Groups such as the US-India Business Council argue that provisions in the Senate bill would disproportionally affect Indian-born, highly skilled workers by restricting their access to H-1B visas. On the one hand, the bill would raise the current base cap for these visas from 65,000 to 110,000, and eventually to 180,000, based on a formula that takes into account the number of unemployed high-skilled workers and whether the cap is met each year. On the other hand, it would also impose a hard limit of 50% on H-1B workers that could make up a company's workforce in the United States starting in October, 2016. The bill would also increase the visa application fee from the current $2,000 to as much as $10,000 for employers with 50-75% such workers.
As of this writing the full Senate has not yet taken up the bill. Given the divisive and high-profile nature of this issue, which has evaded compromise and consensus despite several years of efforts on the part of two administrations and numerous members of Congress, it is uncertain whether this bill will make it through the full legislative process.
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