Last week, Senators Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake re-introduced I-Squared, a bill proposing changes to the popular H-1B visa program, to the Senate.
The initial bill was introduced in 2015, but it hadn’t made much progress since then. However, in light of the Trump administration’s recent calls for changes to the H-1B visa, this new bill could set new legal standards for the in-demand visa program.
What’s in the I-Squared bill?
The I-Squared bill proposes a number of changes to the existing H-1B visa program in the U.S. The list is not exhaustive, but here are a few major shifts that could impact employers:
- Increased cap of up to 195,000 visas. I-Squared proposes raising the annual H-1B bachelor’s visa cap minimum to 85,000 with 20,000 still reserved for employees with master’s degrees or higher. The maximum cap would be increased to 195,000 based on annual demand. The escalated cap would prioritize workers with master’s degrees, PhDs and STEM bachelor’s degrees earned at U.S.-based institutions.
- Work authorization for H-4 visa dependents. This legislation would allow spouses and children of H-1B visa holders to work in the U.S. whenever an H-1B visa has a pending or approved LCA or I-140 petition. Since 2015, spouses and children of H-1B visa holders have been authorized to work in the United States under H-4 visa status, but the Trump administration recently proposed eliminating H-4 work permits altogether.
- The removal of per-country limits on employment-based green cards. These limits currently prevent foreign workers from any one country from obtaining more than 7 percent of U.S. green cards. This bill would lift all limits for employment-based green cards and raise the limit for family-based visas to 15 percent. The hope it that it would decrease exorbitant green card wait times for citizens of countries like India and China.
- Increased minimum salary for H-1B-dependent companies to $100,000. The proposed legislation would require companies with more than 15 percent of their workforce under H-1B status to adjust minimum salary for inflation every three years.
- No more amended petitions for corporate changes. This bill would no longer require companies to file amended petitions if there is corporate restructuring, the company is acquired, or the H-1B worker is moved to a new location within the company with a valid LCA.
- Pre-certification for employers with multiple petitions. The bill would require DHS to establish a procedure that would pre-certify some employers to streamline submission and open up the possibility for electronic storage with USCIS.
Is I-Squared likely to pass?
The proposed legislation comes on the heels of the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act, which recently passed a congressional judiciary committee. According to CNNMoney, I-Squared is a bill that does draw on bipartisan issues and has been openly supported by tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft.
H-1B visa cap season is here! Stay up to date on H-1B news and policy changes to learn how you could be impacted.