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Immigration Reform 2013: First Look

A group of US Senators introduced a Bipartisan Framework for Immigration Reform 2013 January 29, 2013, closely followed by the White House’s Blueprint for Immigration Reform 2013 (Full Text; Fact Sheet), introduced January 30, 2013. In addition, another group of US Senators have introduced the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013–I2– (I2 summary; full text of I2 Bill), a complementary plan for immigration reform that includes fixes for various legal immigration issues, including an H-1B cap increase, and changes in temporary visa and green card opportunities for those with STEM backgrounds, among other things.

Of course, at this time, these are Senate and White House proposals only, and they are likely to undergo significant hurdles and further changes as they move forward in the legislative process. We will post those changes as they happen.

Bipartisan Framework for Immigration Reform

The US Senate’s Bipartisan Framework for Immigration Reform 2013 outlines a framework for comprehensive immigration reform. The Framework has 4 basic components:

  1. Path to US citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already in the US; this is contingent upon securing the US border and dealing with US visa overstays. The contingency on “securing the US border” and “combating visa overstays” could be a major hurdle, but it is a necessary element to obtain bipartisan support for the path to citizenship.
  2. Improving US Legal Immigration System to attract the world’s best and brightest. Included here, among other things (presumably) would be some simplification of the path to a green card for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates with Masters or PhD degrees from US universities.
  3. Strong Employment Verification. Requiring eVerify or some eVerify-like program for all US employers to ensure hiring of documented workers. This would also include, hopefully, improving the existing eVerify program–safeguarding it from identify theft, decreasing errors, etc.
  4. Admitting New Workers, Protecting US Workers’ Rights. Creating new provisions or reforming existing provisions on admitting new workers to the US, and protecting the rights of existing US workers.

Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 (I2)

The US Senate’s Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 (I2 Summary; I2 Text) focuses on legal immigration, and includes the following provisions:

H-1B Visas

  • Nearly doubling the annual H-1B cap and establishing a market-based H-1B escalator so that the annual H-1B cap can be easily adjusted in accordance to the demands of the US economy.
  • Uncapping the existing 20,000 annual H-1B cap on candidates with US advanced degree.
  • Authorizing employment for dependent spouses of H-1B holders.
  • Increasing H-1B employment portability by removing impediments and costs of changing employers; by establishing clear transition period for H-1B workers to change jobs; and by restoring visa revalidation for E, H, L, O and P visa holders.

Student Visas

  • Allowing dual intent for foreign students at US colleges and universities, that is, the intent to remain indefinitely–rather than just temporarily–in the United States.

Immigrant Visas and Green Cards

  • Enabling recapture of unused green card numbers from previous years.
  • Exempting certain categories of individuals from annual employment-based green card quota, including: dependents of employment-based green card recipients; US STEM advanced degree holders; individuals with extraordinary ability; and outstanding professors and researchers.
  • Allowing rollover of unused employment-based green card numbers to following fiscal year.
  • Eliminating annual per-country limits for employment-based green card applications.
  • Adjusting per-country caps for family-based green cards.

US STEM Education and Worker Retraining Initiative

  • Reforming H-1B and employment-based green card fees; use money from those to fund grant program to promote US STEM education and worker retraining.

White House Blueprint for Immigration Reform 2013

The White House’s Blueprint for Immigration Reform 2013 contains a four-part plan, closely tracking the US Senate’s Bipartisan Framework for Immigration Reform 2013. The plan includes the following:

1. Strengthening US borders.
2. Cracking down on employers hiring undocumented workers.
3. Holding undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn US citizenship, i.e., require undocumented workers to pay US taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the immigration line, learn English, and pass background checks.
4. Streamlining the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.

Legal Immigration

More specifically, President Obama’s plan for legal immigration includes:

  • New green card provisions for US advanced degree STEM workers.
  • Passing legislation similar to the DREAM Act allowing young people brought to the US as minors to earn legal status.
  • Creating a Start-Up Visa category allowing entrepreneurs with financing from US investors to come to the US to start businesses and remain permanently if their start-ups create US jobs and generate revenue.
  • Reforming existing employment-based and family-based immigration system, including exempting immediate relatives of US citizens from annual caps, changing categories and per country caps, and ensuring high-skilled immigrants are able to remain in the US and reunite with their families more quickly.
  • Eliminating existing backlogs in family-sponsored green card categories by recapturing unused visas and temporarily increasing annual visa numbers; raise existing annual country caps from 7 to 15% for family-sponsored immigration system.
  • Treating same-sex families as families by giving US citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to sponsor a same-sex partner on the basis of a permanent relationship.
  • Revising current unlawful presence bars and provides broader discretion to waive bars to entry in cases of hardship.
  • Changing H-2A temporary agriculture worker program balancing needs of US business and US worker rights.
  • Changing H-1B program to fill need for high-skilled workers when US employees are unavailable, increasing US worker protections and improving enforcement mechanisms.
  • Establishing new, small, targeted temporary worker program for hiring lower skilled, non-seasonal, non-agricultural workers when US workers are unavailable.

For further details, see Fact Sheet on the White House’s Immigration Reform 2013 proposals, and Full Text of the White House’s Blueprint for Immigration Reform 2013.

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