United States Legislatures took one step closer in passing a sweeping immigration reform bill in May of 2013 when the Senate Judiciary Committee moved the bill forward. The bill, known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, addresses a variety of immigration issues including security measures around the nation’s border and potential citizenship paths for illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S.
In attempting to address one area of particular concern for business leaders, which is the number of visas available to immigrants per year, now capped at 65,000 per year for immigrant workers with less than a masters Degree, our legislators proposed the following changes:
The first change in the proposed law includes an increase in the availability of H-1B visas for highly skilled workers. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services provides these visas to U.S. businesses, allowing them to employ foreign workers in technical fields like science, engineering and computer programming. With an increase in the number of visas, more foreign workers will be allowed to be employed by U.S. businesses.
This shift may be connected to encouragement from tech leaders and tech groups located in Silicon Valley such as Mark Zuckerman and FWD.us. It is well known that Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook fame, brought together many tech leaders to form FWD.us. One goal of FWD.us is to encourage immigration reform, particularly focusing on an increase in the number of available H-1B visas to foreign workers. Members of the group include Bill Gates and Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn. FWD.us is only one of many tech groups pushing for reform.
Another change within the bill that would impact visas is the inclusion of a “60-day transition period to change jobs without losing lawful status.” Essentially, this means an employer cannot remove an employee from the country by terminating employment if that employee finds another employer to sponsor him or her within the 60 day window. Now, if an employee is terminated, the go into unlawful presence quite quickly, usually 10 days. If this new law passes, if employment is terminated, the immigrant worker would have 60 days to find another job before lawful residence expires.
Although the proposed bill initially included protections to same-sex couples, the bill may have moved forward because an amendment, namely a controversial provision allowing for an extension of protections to same-sex couples, was removed. The New York Times reports that Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina summed up the view of most U.S. Republican Representatives when he stated, “You’ve got me on immigration. You don’t have me on marriage. If you want to keep me on immigration, let’s stay on immigration.”
Additional amendments to the bill will likely be made if the bill is to progress through the U.S. Senate.
The debate surrounding this bill highlights the difficulties in receiving an immigrant visa not only for foreign workers but also for family members.
If you or a loved one is applying for a visa, contact an experienced visa attorney or immigration attorney to discuss your situation and help increase your chances of putting together a successful application.