In today’s blog, Attorney Alexandra Sanchez discusses proposed changes to temporary visas in the draft Senate reform bill:
The Senate’s immigration bill proposes to increase substantially the number of visas available for high-skilled workers (or workers in occupations requiring at least a Bachelor’s degree). Increasing the H-1B visa cap and exempting STEM graduates from the numerical limitations have been the main focus of supporters of immigration reform and its economic benefits. From a cap set currently at 65,000 per year, the bill increases H-1B visas to at least 110,000 with the possibility of making up to 180,000 visas available in the future depending on market conditions. Businesses have welcomed the expansion of the H-1B program, and are now focused on making less burdensome some of the program requirements designed to protect the US workforce.
On the other side of the spectrum, however, the Senate bill falls short in making available enough visas for low-skilled workers (or workers in occupations that require less than a Bachelor’s degree). Title IV includes a provision creating the W Nonimmigrant Visa category for foreign nationals in low skilled occupations, and creating the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research to make determinations on shortage occupations. Starting on April 1, 2015, the annual cap for W non immigrant visas will be set at 20,000 for the first year; 35,000 for the second year; 55,000 for the third year, and 75,000 for the fourth year. After the fourth year, the annual cap will be calculated using a formula that takes into account market considerations. Still, it seems that the number of visas envisioned by the Senate bill for low-skill workers remains incredibly low vis-à-vis the adequate number of workers that would be needed to provide essential services like healthcare, childcare, and others.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has begun its debate of these provisions. We will soon know which of these proposals make it out of Committee.
Mooers Immigration has long been engaged in Comprehensive Immigration Reform, responding to Congressional inquiries on policy and law issues. We are regularly asked to assist elected officials and their staff to understand both the benefits and consequences of various proposals for reform.