A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators has introduced legislation that would nearly double the current H-1B visa annual cap, recapture unutilized “green card” numbers, eliminate yearly per country limits on permanent residency, and create a “market-based H-1B escalator” to tailor visa availability to economic demand.
The ambitious new plan unveiled by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) would increase the current H-1B quota of 65,000 to 115,000 visas per year and limit the “market-based escalator” to 300,000 annual visas, including provisions to make thousands of new H-1B visas available depending on how quickly the initial quota is reached. The bill also aims to reform the fees charged for H-1B and permanent residency filings and to resolve the long-standing issue of offering work authorization to the dependent spouses of H-1B holders.
In addition to expanding the H-1B visa program, the proposed legislation aims to increase high-skilled foreign nationals’ access to “green cards” by exemption certain categories of applicants from the employment-based annual cap, including the dependents of employment-based visa holders, advanced STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) degree holders, outstanding professors and researchers, and persons with “extraordinary ability.” If approved, the bill would also “roll over” unused employment-based immigrant visa numbers to the following fiscal year, eliminate annual per-country quotas for employment-based visa petitioners, and adjust family-based immigrant visa caps.