GOP Senator Wants To Double The Number Of H-1B Visas

Will Racke | Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah plans to roll out a bill on Thursday that would sharply raise the annual cap of tech worker visas and allow the spouses of those foreign workers to get jobs in the U.S., as well.

Hatch’s so-called Immigration Innovation bill — I-Squared — would boost the limit on H-1B visas from 65,000 to 85,000 a year, and includes a mechanism to expand the cap to 195,000, depending on demand. It also scraps the per country limit on employment-based green cards, reports The Hill.

The I-Squared proposal comes as lawmakers wrangle over a bill that would codify the soon-to-expire Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and enact tougher border security and immigration controls. Skilled worker visas have not factored into the DACA negotiations.

President Donald Trump’s administration has moved to tighten the rules governing the H-1B program, requiring immigration officials to apply closer scrutiny to applicants who are applying for visa extensions. The Department of Homeland Security is also weighing a proposal to do away with the so-called H-4 work authorization, a former President Barack Obama-era program that lets H-1B spouses work in the U.S.

The moves have cheered conservative immigration reformers, who say the H-1B visa is an unnecessary program that displaces American workers in favor of cheaper foreign labor.

ALSO WATCH:

Doubling the H-1B cap is unlikely to be a popular move among Trump’s base, but the Hatch bill includes some changes to the program that could make it more palatable for conservative GOP lawmakers, according to a draft obtained by Axios.

It requires H1-B dependent firms — where H-1B holders make up more than 15 percent of the workforce — to pay their guest workers at least $100,000, with the minimum level adjusted for inflation every three years. The provision is aimed at India-based outsourcing firms, that supply many U.S. tech companies with foreign labor and are the biggest petitioners of H-1B visas.

The I-Squared bill also increases H-1B application fees that would raise almost $1 billion for STEM education and U.S. worker training programs.

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