A congressional immigration reform proposal passed its first test and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 21, 2013. Action on the bill had been expected before the Memorial Day break, but not so much sooner than the self-imposed deadline.
The Committee reached a key compromise related to H-1B specialty occupation workers, with the following provisions:
- H-1B numbers would increase, from 65,000 per year to a range of between 110,000 and 180,000.
- Filing fees for H-1B petitions would increase substantially.
- Employers must recruit U.S. workers but need not offer jobs to all U.S. workers who are qualified.
- H-1B workers may not be paid less than U.S. workers with the same position, and employers dependent on the foreign workers must pay higher than Level 1 wages to the H-1B workers.
- Outsourcing through job shops who employ H-1B workers is restricted.
The legislation would treat foreign graduates with U.S. science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) degrees more favorably than those with other degrees, allowing them to skip the H-1B process and apply directly for permanent residence and a green card.
The bill contains widescale changes to immigration law going well beyond H-1B employment. The next step will be debate of all the provisions by the full Senate The House has just begun to start releasing its immigration reform bills.