Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced the “Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act of 2018” in the U.S. Senate on January 25, 2018. The bill (S. 2344) would authorize additional visas for “well-educated aliens” to live and work in the United States.

A summary from Sen. Hatch outlines the bill as follows:

Employment-Based Nonimmigrant Visas (H-1B)

  • S. advanced degrees: Uncaps the existing exemption (currently 20,000) for holders of U.S. master’s degrees or higher from the annual numerical limitation on H-1B visas for individuals who are being or will be sponsored for a green card.
  • Statutory cap: Increases the annual base allocation of H-1B visas from 65,000 to 85,000.
  • Market escalator: Creates a market-based escalator to allow the supply of H-1B visas to meet demand. Under the escalator, up to 110,000 additional H-1B visas (for a total of 195,000) may be granted in a fiscal year if certain demand requirements are met.
  • Lottery prioritization: Prioritizes adjudication of cap-subject H-1B visa petitions for holders of U.S. master’s degrees or higher, holders of foreign Ph.D.’s, and holders of U.S. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) bachelor’s degrees.
  • Hoarding penalties: Subjects employers who fail to employ an H-1B worker for more than three months during the individual’s first year of work authorization to a penalty.
  • Prohibitions on replacement: Prohibits employers from hiring an H-1B visa holder with the purpose and intent to replace a U.S. worker.
  • Work authorization for H-1B spouses and children: Provides work authorization for spouses and dependent children of H-1B visa holders.
  • Worker mobility: Increases H-1B worker mobility by establishing a grace period during which H-1B visa holders can change jobs without losing legal status.
  • Dependent employers: Updates 1998 law exempting H-1B dependent employers from certain recruitment and nondisplacement requirements. Raises the H-1B salary level at which the salary-based exemption takes effect from $60,000 to $100,000. Narrows education-based exemption to H-1B hires with a U.S. Ph.D. Eliminates exemptions for “super-dependent” employers.

Green Cards

  • Per-country numerical limits: Eliminates annual per-country limit for employment-based permanent resident “green cards” and adjusts per-country caps for family-based green cards.
  • Green card recapture: Enables the recapture of green card numbers that were approved by Congress in previous years but not used.
  • Exemptions from green card cap: Exempts spouses and children of employment-based green card holders, holders of U.S. STEM master’s degrees or higher, and certain individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts and sciences, from worldwide numerical caps on employment-based green cards.
  • Worker mobility: Increases worker mobility for individuals on the path to a green card by enabling them to change jobs earlier in the process without losing their place in the green card line.
  • Employmentbased conditional green cards: Creates a new conditional green card category to allow U.S. employers to sponsor university-educated foreign professionals through a separate path from H-1B.

Student Visas

  • Dual intent: Enables F-1 student visa holders to seek permanent resident status while a student or during Optional Practical Training (OPT).

STEM Education and Worker Training

  • Promoting American Ingenuity Account: Increases fees for H-1B visas and employment-based green cards and directs fees toward state-administered grants to promote STEM education and worker training.

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