Over the past decade, lawmakers have made serious efforts to slow the exodus of skilled labor, specifically foreign nationals who have been educated in the United States, from our shores. While each attempt has seen minor success, a new bill that comes directly on the heels of President Obama’s Immigration Reform of 2014 could be a considerable leap forward – especially for those working in the tech or science industries. Known as the Immigration Innovation Bill of 2015, or the I-Squared bill, the Bill focuses primarily on H-1B visas and those highly skilled laborers who struggle to remain in the country after securing their degrees.
Initially drafted by Senator Orinn Hatch of Utah and subsequently joined by a bi-partisan group of legislators, the Bill calls for a variety of upgrades to the current H-1B process, namely:
- The current 65,000 cap on H-1B visas will be raised to 115,000, with potentially 195,000 accepted during particularly demanding years.
- Spouses of current H-1B holders will be able to secure employment themselves, which will potentially introduce even more skilled workers to the labor force.
- STEM (Science, Technology, Education or Math) degree holders, individuals who display extraordinary talent, and those dependant on current H-1B holders will be considered exempt from the cap on visas.
- Retains green cards that were approved by Congress in the previous year, but were never used.
- Above all, grants foreign workers the ability to switch jobs or have a delay in work and not lose their status.
While it remains to be seen whether or not this bill will pass through Congress unscathed or how it will interact with President Obama’s current reforms (which also includes updates to the H-1B visa process), we are certainly interested in the potential outcome. As with all the immigration reforms taking place, we will continue to monitor any new developments and update you as we know more!