The “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” (S. 744) was introduced in the Senate early Wednesday morning by the “Gang of Eight,” a group of bi-partisan senators. The bill’s key features include: enhancement of border security and mandatory enrollment in the E-Verify program; legalization and a “pathway to citizenship” for unlawfully present individuals who entered the U.S. before December 31, 2011; and significant expansion of employment-based immigration coupled with elimination of the visa lottery and reduction of family-based immigration options.
The items in the proposed legislation of most importance to employers include:
- All employers would be required to enroll in E-Verify within 5 years.
- The bill would dramatically increase the number of temporary employment options for foreign workers. Specifically, the number of H-1B visas for temporary professional workers would increase from the current 65,000 visas per year (with additional 20,000 set-aside for graduates of U.S. graduate schools) to between 110,000 and 185,000 per year (with additional 25,000 set-aside for graduates from U.S. graduate schools pursuing STEM degrees). Furthermore, spouses of H-1B workers would be eligible for employment authorization, as long as reciprocal employment authorization benefits are afforded to US citizens in the foreign national’s home country. However, the mechanics of the H-1B program would be more difficult than they are now, with the addition of a recruitment requirement for all H-1B labor condition applications with a 30-day posting on a U.S. Department of Labor website, a non-displacement attestation, a change in the way prevailing wages are determined, heightened fees for heavy users of the H-1B program, and additional fees for companies that outsource or lease H-1B workers to third-party companies. Companies would be banned from the FY2014 H-1B cap if more than 75% of their US workforce held H-1B or L-1 visas, from FY2015 if more than 65% of their US workforce held H-1B and L-1 visas, and from FY2016 if 50% of their US workforce held H-1B and L-1 visas.