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New bills considered for high-tech, H-1B employment based visas

In the last post, this blog discussed discussions on Capitol Hill regarding potential reforms to agricultural visas. However, the H-2 visa rules are not the only employment base visas that are being discussed by federal lawmakers. Congressional lawmakers are also considering some changes in the laws governing visas in the high tech industries and other specialized work areas under the employment based visa program.

In recent years the demand for H-1B visas has been high. The government places limits on the number of H-1B visas that can issue each year and also restricts the overall percentage of visas that can issue to immigrants from each individual nation.

The limitations and restrictions have created backlogs on the program and caused delays in wait times for immigrants from certain high demand countries. Overall, the U.S. government allots only 140,000 employment based green cards each year. The feds also restrict the number of green cards per country to a maximum of 7 percent of all available visas.

The U.S. State Department says the limitations serve "to avoid monopolization of virtually all the annual limitation by applicants from only a few countries."

One bill being considered on Capitol Hill seeks to eliminate the per-country limits on employment based visas. The measure would essentially make the H1-B visa program a first come, first served global visa system. One of the co-authors of the measure is Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has oversight over immigration issues.

A separate measure was also introduced earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), which seeks to include a broader set of immigration reform affecting employment based green cards. That measure reportedly includes provisions related to allowing students who earn certain hi-tech degrees to apply for green cards. The measures remain up for debate.

South Florida businesses and individuals seeking immigrant or non-immigrant visas can contact an experienced immigration attorney to learn what avenues immigrants may have to qualify for status under current U.S. immigration law.

Source: Computer World, "GOP seeks to help high-tech firms with visas," Patrick Thibodeau, Sept. 26, 2011

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