How Does the Senate Immigration Reform Bill Change the Existing System


The bill reforms current non-immigrant visa programs and creates a new worker visa that melds greater employer flexibility with worker protections and ability to apply for permanent residence.

H-1B: Changes to the H-1B high skilled visa program include expanding the current cap from 65,000 to 110,000 with an option to ultimately increase the cap to 180,000 visas annually based on a High Skilled Jobs Demand Index. Allows for work authorization for spouses and children. Increases requirements for recruiting and offering jobs to U.S. workers at higher wages prior to hiring foreign workers. Increases fines and wage requirements for companies that are heavy-users of H-1B visas. After 3 years, companies whose workforce is more than fifty percent H-1Bs are barred.

Deterring Abuse: Establishes significant new authorities and penalties to prevent, detect, and deter fraud and abuse of the H-1B and L-1 visa systems by fraudulent employers. Increases wages for foreign workers to help protect Americans.

H-2B: Makes permanent the H-2B returning worker provision.

New Worker Program (W Visa): Establishes a new nonimmigrant W classification for lesser-skilled foreign workers performing services or labor for a registered employer in a registered position. Spouses and minor children are included and are work-authorized. It is a three year visa with three year renewal periods. Initially, 20,000 W visas will be made available, rising to 75,000 visas in four years. The visa program cap can rise to 200,000 depending on a formula based on unemployment, job openings, number of applications and the recommendations of a newly established Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research. Shortage occupation employers can hire workers outside the cap. W visa holders may switch from one registered employer to another without penalty and apply for the merits-based lawful permanent residence program or the Employment-Based system.

Agriculture: A new agricultural guest worker visa program would be established to provide a more stable agricultural workforce. A portable, at-will employment based visa (W-3 visa) and a contract-based visa (W-2 visa) administered by the Department of Agriculture would replace the current H-2A program. It will provide growers with a streamlined process to petition for worker while ensuring critical worker protections. The H-2A program would sunset after the new guest worker visa program is operational.

INVEST Visa: This bill creates a new INVEST visa for foreign entrepreneurs who seek to come to the U.S. to start their own companies. This 3-year visa would be available to immigrant entrepreneurs who have a qualifying investor in the US and can be renewed if it can demonstrate certain benchmarks related to the number of jobs it creates and revenue it produces.

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