The Proposal of the I-Squared Act

February 21, 2018 § Leave a comment

Senators Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake proposed the Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 (I-Squared Act) with intentions on improving the high-skilled immigration system with increased obligations for sponsoring employers. According to Hatch, this bill incorporates a merit-based system into immigration policy, which has been an important issue on the Trump agenda.  However, unlike the Raise Act, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) and supported by Trump, I-Squared would not cut legal immigration over a 10-year period. It will increase programs that support highly skilled foreign workers while protecting U.S. workers.

The I-Squared Act would increase the H-1B cap from a baseline of 85,000 per year up to 195,000 in high demand years. The bill would bring about unlimited cap exemption for U.S. advanced-degree graduates for whom an employment-based green card case is begun within a year after they obtain H-1B status. If the cap were reached in the first five business days of the cap season, a priority system would be used to allocate cap numbers. Priority would be given to (1) cap-subject U.S. advanced degree holders; (2) beneficiaries holding doctoral degrees earned outside the United States; and (3) foreign nationals holding U.S. bachelor’s degrees in designated STEM fields.

Under the Act, H-4 dependents (children and spouse of the H-1B visa holder) can receive work authorizations providing the H-1B spouse has a pending or approved Labor Certification or I-140 and require H-4 employers to certify they will pay the spouse the greater of the actual wage or the prevailing wage. This change will make decisions related to cap-subject H-1B visas a priority based on the degree of the individual and speeds up the process for employers filing multiple immigrant or nonimmigrant petitions. The new bill would require that an H-1B employer can only hire an H-1B employee if there is no intent of replacing a U.S. worker unless the U.S. worker received a promotion, transferred, retired or left the company voluntarily.

In regards to the monetary aspect of the I-Squared Act, USCIS filing fees required for H-1B petitioners in accordance to the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA) would increase in order to contribute to STEM education funding; however, it is also planned to increase prevailing wages in the workforce.

The I-Squared Act not only affects the H-1B visa programs, but also green card programs. Currently, there are numerical limitations on each country on immigrant visas. The Act would eliminate these limitations and recapture unused visas from FY 1992 through FY 2013 to cut the backlogs. It will also increase employment-based immigration visas to 35,000 and create dual intent for student visa holders to make it easier for them to apply for a green card.

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