Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives which gives H-1B workers the flexibility to switch jobs and reduce the Green Card backlog by expanding education-based exemptions from per-country caps for H-1B holders.
According to a PTI report, Krishnamoorthi and Republican lawmaker Mike Coffman, introduced the HR 6794, or the “Immigration Innovation Act of 2018” in the House of Representatives on September 13 and if passed by the Congress and signed into law by the President, the bill would reform and streamline the H-1B high-skilled worker visa program while increasing investment in American Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education for students in K-12, post-secondary or college programs.
According to Krishnamoorthi and Coffman, the bill will:
- Propose to ban employers from hiring H-1B holders to replace American workers while increasing funding for STEM education at the K-12, post-secondary and university levels.
- All fees collected for H-1B visas and conditional Green Cards will go to state-administered funds to promote domestic STEM education and worker training including financial aid and research initiatives, which will expand investments in advanced training for the domestic workforce, ultimately reducing the demand for foreign workers while helping the American economy grow.
- Remove the existing annual exemption cap on H-1B visas for holders of American master’s degrees or higher, which is currently exempting 20,000 per year, for individuals who are sponsored for a Green Card while narrowing education-based cap exemption to those with American PhDs.
- Creates lottery prioritization for cap-subject petitions in the order of: American master’s degree or higher, foreign PhDs, and the American STEM bachelor’s degrees while establishing a grace period to allow H-1B visa holders to change jobs without losing their legal status to permit mobility under qualifying circumstances.
- Subjects employers who have more than five H-1B employees to a penalty for each employee who worked less than 25 percent of the first work-authorization year and prohibits employers from hiring an H-1B visa worker to replace an American worker while also providing work authorization for spouses and dependent children of H-1B visa workers at the prevailing wage.
- Proposes to eliminate per-country limit for employment based green cards and adjusts per-country caps for family-based green cards along with enabling the reassignment of unused visas from previous years.
- Creates new conditional Green Card category to allow American employers to sponsor university-educated foreign professionals through a separate path from H-1B and requires employers to attest that no American worker has been displaced for the Green Card holder, undertaking recruitment efforts to fill the position with an American worker and offer prevailing wage not less than $100,000 per year.
The bill exempts spouses and children of employment-based green card holders, holders of American STEM master’s degrees or higher and individuals with extraordinary skill in arts and sciences from caps.
The bill also enables F-1 student visa holders to seek permanent resident status while they are still a student or during their Optional Practical Training.