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Compromise on H-1B visas results in immigration bill approval

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2013 | Employment Immigration

If you don’t like negotiations and compromises, you would disapprove of the merry-go-round procedures that the Congress follows in considering proposed legislation. One bill now being negotiated is the Senate version of the immigration reform bill pushed by the so-called ‘Gang of Eight.’ The Senate Judiciary Committee just approved its version of the bill, which contains a compromise regarding H-1B visas for highly-skilled foreign workers which is of great interest to some California companies.

The bill was approved by a 13-5 vote, with at least three Republicans voting yes. However, Republicans indicated that more changes will be needed on the Senate floor to win passage there, and to have a chance in the Republican-controlled House. The bill may get to the full Senate sometime in June.

The Immigration reform measure attempts to blend the Democrats’ desire to provide possible citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants with enough border-security enhancements to satisfy Republicans. The main obstacle to the legislation remains the conservative-led Republican House, which has defeated other popular legislation recently. One of the main issues being debated in the Judiciary Committee was regarding the increase in H-1B visas for highly-skilled foreign workers. The Republicans insisted that United States workers be protected.

The compromise keeps an increase of H-1B visas from 85,000 to 135,000 annually. In future years, the limit can increase up to 180,000, depending on economic conditions. However, it requires that employers show that no United States worker has been or will be displaced by the grant of a proposed H-1B visa.

The employer doesn’t have to show that for each visa extension. Labor unions protested, saying that companies could hire foreign workers at lower wages and fire United States workers. Technology companies, on the other hand, objected to requiring them to look for workers here before hiring foreign ones.

As indicated in prior blog articles, the California economy will benefit by a comprehensive reform package. There are other benefits to California’s citizenry and to undocumented workers. The provision regarding H-1B visas is one of many compromises expected to emerge out of the original proposed bill. This signifies that everybody is going to get less than what they want, which is a prime characteristic of a democratic process.

Source: Bloomberg, “Senate Panel Approves Immigration Plan With Hatch Changes,” Kathleen Hunter and Heidi Przybyla, May 21, 2013