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US senators introduce immigration reform bill to increase H-1B visas

Newspaper accounts and the blogosphere are rife with commentary on bipartisan proposals for immigration reform that are being considered on Capitol Hill. The commentary seems to change hourly, although the legislative process is likely to take some time as the proposals are debated and marked up in coming weeks.

It appears that more and more people are recognizing that immigration reform is necessary, and proposals for reform include a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million immigrants believed to be living in the country without legal permission.

A bipartisan proposal aimed at reforming the H-1B visa program does not seem to be garnering as many headlines nationally. Several senators from both sides of the aisle, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, have signed on to a business-based immigration reform measure that seeks to modify the H-1B visa cap.

The Immigration Innovation Act was introduced in the Senate Tuesday by four senators. The measure is aimed at increasing the number of H-1B visas available for workers in the science, technology, engineering and math areas. The bill would initially increase the number of high skilled temporary work visas available under the H-1B visa program to 115, 000 each year.

Florida Senator Rubio says that, "Our immigration system needs to be modernized to be more welcoming of highly skilled immigrants and the enormous contributions they can make to our economy and society," according to ABC News.

In addition to the initial increase in employment-based nonimmigrant visas, the bill adds what people are calling an escalator formula, which would allow the H-1B visa cap to adjust automatically to the demands of the labor market. The visa cap would adjust either way, but the total ceiling would be set at 300,000 visas in any given year.

The Immigration Innovation Act appears to be family friendly as well, allowing spouses of H-1b visas to work in the United States. The bill also allows creates exemptions from employment-based green card caps for specified immigrants, such as dependents of H-1B holders and STEM degree holders.

The Immigration Innovation Act does not address comprehensive immigration reform, which is also on the table on Capitol Hill.

This blog has previously discussed issues surrounding business and employment-based visa programs for immigrants and businesses in Florida. It appears that the logjam that has stalled immigration law changes at the federal level may be easing. Immigration law attorneys are watching each level of the immigration reform debate.


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