With the New Year comes the new Republican-controlled Congress. Many immigrants and immigrant advocacy groups are not optimistic that the new Congress will take steps to safeguard and promote immigrant rights. Instead, these groups are worried that Congress will move in the opposite direction and pass laws to further restrict and complicate America’s already hugely complex immigration system.
However, amid the Republicans’ promises and threats that they will punish the President for his recently announced executive orders, there seem to be very positive discussions that indicate the Republicans are ready to act on at least one piece of pro-immigrant legislation. According to several inside sources on Capitol Hill, the Republicans are collaborating to introduce a single bill that would greatly improve the existing H-1B visa system.
The I-Squared Act
The bill the Republicans are working on is called the I-Squared Act, which is shorthand for the Immigration Innovation Act. The groundwork for its introduction into the House of Representatives has already been laid, since the legislation currently enjoys bipartisan support. With 26 co-sponsors from lawmakers all over the country, the I-Squared bill may be the first piece of immigration-related legislation that is introduced in 2015.
The bill was first introduced in 2013 but did not advance through the Congressional channels because at that time the Senate was wholly preoccupied with passing comprehensive immigration reform – and not with passing piecemeal legislation.
The bill would increase the H-1B cap from its current per fiscal year limitation of 65,000 visas (plus an additional 20,000 reserved for applications with a U.S. Master’s degree) to 115,000. The bill also includes methods, such as a market-based calculator, that would allow the cap to be raised as high as 300,000 if sufficient demand existed for more H-1B visas.
The Importance of Passing the I-Squared Act
It is critically important for members of Congress to move forward on introducing and passing the I-Squared Act as soon as possible. Doing so would not only set the right tone for future immigration policy but would also address a very real and serious problem that has been plaguing multiple American industries for years.
The demand for H-1B visas exceeds the supply nearly every year. Just last year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received more than 172,500 requests for H-1B visas in the first five days of April (which is when employers can begin sending their requests to USCIS). In order to select 65,000 H-1B visas – plus the additional 20,000 for U.S. Master’s students – that are allowed under current law, USCIS conducts a random lottery to select which cases it will review and ultimately approve or deny. Thus, more than 100,000 H-1B requests were returned to the U.S. employers that filed them, with the result that these employers were unable to staff their companies with the adequate personnel they need in order to grow their businesses.
It is abundantly clear that the current H-1B system does not reflect the realities and the needs of the U.S. economy. By quickly passing the I-Squared Act, the Republican Congress would be sending the long-awaited message that it is ready to work with the President and the American people on improving the nation’s immigration system. Continue to check with our blog for the most up to date news on this bill and all other immigration-related issues.
More Blog Posts
The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012
Obama Signs Immigration Executive Order, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012