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Employers and Employees: Take Note of Senate’s Immigration Reform Bill

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on April 22, 2013

The bipartisan bill on immigration reform introduced in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday of this past week does not even have a number assigned to it yet, but already it has drawn more attention and support than any prior attempt at legislative overhaul.

A review of the provisions in the bill, which are neatly summarized by the Migration Policy Institute, reveals a number of ways in which employers and employees could be affected by its passage. Among the key provisions pertinent to employment are the following:

  • The bill would require all employers to use the federal E-verify system (including agricultural employers) to verify work eligibility of employees, with employers of more than 5,000 people being first affected, and smaller employers being phased in to coverage over a four-year period;
  • Every non-citizen would be required to show a “biometric work authorization card” or “biometric green card” to employers, and the photographs of these documents will be stored in the E-verify system;
  • U.S. citizens would be required to show prospective employers a passport (with passport photos stored in the E-verify system) or a driver’s license (acceptable only if the citizen’s state has agreed to submit photos to the E-verify system);
  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would be required to create a system that allows employees to “lock” their social security number in E-verify so that it cannot be used by another person fraudulently, and the system would also have to allow employees to check whether their social security numbers were improperly used;
  • The bill would eliminate all caps on visas for “foreign nationals of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, multinational executives, doctoral degree holders and certain physicians.”
  • The bill would establish a non-immigrant W Visa for lower-skilled jobs that do not require bachelor’s degrees, allowing multi-year employment with an option to apply for permanent residence.
  • The bill would establish an independent agency to make recommendations to policymakers on numerical limits and all other aspects of the employment-based visa system, and would mandate the creation of an online registry for listing of all available H-1B visa positions for workers in specialty occupations;
  • With respect to the H-1B visa in particular, the bill would increase the annual cap on the issuance of such visas to 110,000 (from 65,000) and would add another 25,000 open slots for U.S. master’s degree holders, permitting formula-based adjustments in the caps over time up to a maximum of 180,000 in total;
  • With respect to H-1B workers, the bill would provide a 60-day period in which they would be permitted to change jobs while increasing their required wages, as well as fraud detection measures and penalties on employers;
  • The bill would re-allocate the total number of work-related visas so that 40 percent would be reserved for members of professions holding advanced degrees or their equivalent in science, art, professions or business, as well as those who have a master’s degree or higher in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, and another 40 percent would go to skilled workers and other professionals, with special class immigrant visas and employment creation visas (EB-5 visas) making up the rest of the quota;
  • The bill would create a special start-up visa for foreign entrepreneurs who seek to immigrate here to start their own companies; and
  • The bill would eliminate the diversity visa program after FY 2014.

We will be keeping an eye on the progress of this legislation for you in the weeks and months ahead.

Meanwhile, if your business needs foreign workers to fill specific needs, and you are not sure how to sponsor those workers under visa programs other than the H-1B program, or if you just need legal assistance with any business immigration issue, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (847) 564-0712 for an appointment to speak with an experienced and qualified immigration lawyer. You can also check out our immigration law Website for more information about how we might assist you.