News / USA

Details of US Immigration Bill Prioritize Work Skills

Senator John McCain, center, speaks about immigration reform legislation that would create a path for millions of unauthorized immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship, April 18, 2013.
Senator John McCain, center, speaks about immigration reform legislation that would create a path for millions of unauthorized immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship, April 18, 2013.
The United States is widely known as the “Land of Immigrants” and the U.S. government intends to keep it that way. But major changes may be on the way in how the country deals with immigration.

Eight U.S. senators from the Republican and Democratic parties have submitted a new bill to overhaul the immigration system, with a focus on immigrant work skills and improved border security.

Such efforts have been made before, but this time there is a good chance the reform proposal will succeed.

The proposed legislation is 844 pages long. You can read it here. Or, you can read this roundup of the highlights of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.

High skills

​Under the new proposal, the cap on H-1B visas would nearly double from 65,000 to 110,000, and could rise to 180,000 if certain conditions are met.

Gautam Aggarwal, a software engineer from India working for a Silicon Valley startup, poses with Indian god figures on his television set at his home in Mountain View, California.Gautam Aggarwal, a software engineer from India working for a Silicon Valley startup, poses with Indian god figures on his television set at his home in Mountain View, California.
x
Gautam Aggarwal, a software engineer from India working for a Silicon Valley startup, poses with Indian god figures on his television set at his home in Mountain View, California.
Gautam Aggarwal, a software engineer from India working for a Silicon Valley startup, poses with Indian god figures on his television set at his home in Mountain View, California.
Spouses of people holding H-1B visas would be given the right to work and they would not count against the cap on H 1-B visas, if in turn, their country of origin allows the spouses of U.S. nationals working in that country to hold employment. 

Certain companies employing H-1B visa holders would be required to pay fees and higher wages to ensure they’re not using foreigners to keep down labor costs.

Low skills

A new W visa program would be created for low-skilled guest workers. In the first year after enactment, 20,000 W visas would be granted. That would rise incrementally to 75,000 W visas in 2019.

W visa holders could not apply for a merit-based immigration status, such as permanent residency or citizenship.

To protect American workers, no one with a W visa could be hired in a metropolitan area with an unemployment rate higher than 8.5 percent unless they have a special exemption from the Department of Homeland Security. Also, U.S. employers could not fire American workers 90 days before or after guest workers are hired.

In the money

​A new INVEST non-immigrant category would be created to encourage investors and startup companies to set up shop in the U.S. without having to depend on a U.S. employer.

Arnulfo Ventura, co-founder of Coba, a Mexican beverage company, outside in his office and art gallery in downtown Los Angeles, Oct. 16, 2012.Arnulfo Ventura, co-founder of Coba, a Mexican beverage company, outside in his office and art gallery in downtown Los Angeles, Oct. 16, 2012.
x
Arnulfo Ventura, co-founder of Coba, a Mexican beverage company, outside in his office and art gallery in downtown Los Angeles, Oct. 16, 2012.
Arnulfo Ventura, co-founder of Coba, a Mexican beverage company, outside in his office and art gallery in downtown Los Angeles, Oct. 16, 2012.

Extraordinary aliens

The U.S. would open its doors to an unlimited number of “aliens with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.”

STEM

The bill would allocate 25,000 more visas to foreigners who have earned a master’s degree or higher in the field of science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).

Working the fields

​The bill would replace the H-2A visa program for agricultural workers with a new “blue card” for immigrants.

Most of the one million farm workers in the U.S. are immigrants, up to a half are thought to be in the U.S. illegally.Most of the one million farm workers in the U.S. are immigrants, up to a half are thought to be in the U.S. illegally.
x
Most of the one million farm workers in the U.S. are immigrants, up to a half are thought to be in the U.S. illegally.
Most of the one million farm workers in the U.S. are immigrants, up to a half are thought to be in the U.S. illegally.
To get one of the 112,333 blue cards offered in the first five years, applicants would have to have held an agricultural job for at least 100 days in the two years before December 31, 2012, have no criminal history and pay a $400 fee and back taxes.

Blue card holders would be able to apply for legal permanent residency in five years, faster than any other undocumented worker.

All in the family

A year and a half after the bill is enacted, the United States would no longer offer family-based visas to the siblings and adult married children of U.S. legal permanent residents and citizens. It would, however, grant an unlimited number of visas to the parents, children and spouses of legal permanent residents and citizens.

Dreamers

The bill will allow immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children to apply for registered provisional status, and to adjust that status to legal permanent residency after five years, faster than other undocumented immigrants. These so-called DREAMers, named after the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, can then apply for citizenship.

Maria Rguez, of Mexico, learns math skills from volunteer teacher, Dharma Diaz-Azcuy, in a GED preparation class at Marist School, in Atlanta, Georgia, Oct. 11, 2012.Maria Rguez, of Mexico, learns math skills from volunteer teacher, Dharma Diaz-Azcuy, in a GED preparation class at Marist School, in Atlanta, Georgia, Oct. 11, 2012.
x
Maria Rguez, of Mexico, learns math skills from volunteer teacher, Dharma Diaz-Azcuy, in a GED preparation class at Marist School, in Atlanta, Georgia, Oct. 11, 2012.
Maria Rguez, of Mexico, learns math skills from volunteer teacher, Dharma Diaz-Azcuy, in a GED preparation class at Marist School, in Atlanta, Georgia, Oct. 11, 2012.
They are eligible if they came to the U.S. before they were 16 years old, served in the military for four years, attended college for at least two years or earned a high school diploma or equivalent degree.

Deported DREAMers also could apply to come back to the U.S.

Diversity visa

In 2015, the diversity lottery program would end, eliminating the 55,000 permanent resident visas allocated each year by a random lottery to people from countries not well represented in the U.S.

In its place, 120,000 visas would be granted each year according to a merit-based system based on family relations, professional skills and work history in the U.S. The number would eventually grow to 250,000.

Path to legalization

The senators who drafted the immigration reform bill say they are not offering amnesty to the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. There will be conditions and a long wait.

Mercedes Rosa Ruiz Mejia, 97, from Nicaragua takes the oath of citizenship in Los Angeles, California, April 16, 2013.Mercedes Rosa Ruiz Mejia, 97, from Nicaragua takes the oath of citizenship in Los Angeles, California, April 16, 2013.
x
Mercedes Rosa Ruiz Mejia, 97, from Nicaragua takes the oath of citizenship in Los Angeles, California, April 16, 2013.
Mercedes Rosa Ruiz Mejia, 97, from Nicaragua takes the oath of citizenship in Los Angeles, California, April 16, 2013.
​Currently, legal permanent residents in the U.S. can become citizens after five years. For immigrants illegally residing in the U.S., the process would take much longer - 13 years.

Once certain border security conditions are met, they would be able to begin the legalization process by applying for a new “registered provisional” status.

Undocumented immigrants would be eligible for this if they entered the U.S. before December 31, 2011, hold a job, have not committed a felony or three misdemeanors, and pay back taxes and a $500 fine.

Registered provisional immigrants, or RPIs, will not be eligible for public benefits, but they also won't be deported. If they already have been deported, they can apply to come back to the U.S. if they have a parent or child living here legally.

RPIs must renew their status after six years, meeting the same criteria as before and paying another $500 fee.

For another $1,000, they can apply for permanent residency 10 years after they initially were granted registered provisional status. In three more years, they can apply for citizenship.

Securing the borders

California Border Patrol agent Richard Gordon holds a carpet and wire wrap which illegal immigrants use to disguise their footprints after entering the U.S., March 25, 2013.California Border Patrol agent Richard Gordon holds a carpet and wire wrap which illegal immigrants use to disguise their footprints after entering the U.S., March 25, 2013.
x
California Border Patrol agent Richard Gordon holds a carpet and wire wrap which illegal immigrants use to disguise their footprints after entering the U.S., March 25, 2013.
California Border Patrol agent Richard Gordon holds a carpet and wire wrap which illegal immigrants use to disguise their footprints after entering the U.S., March 25, 2013.
Before undocumented immigrants can start on a path to legal residency, the U.S. border with Mexico must be 100 percent secure, and authorities must be intercepting 90 percent or more of people illegally crossing all high risk border sections, according to standards set by the reform bill.

The Department of Homeland Security would get $6.5 billion to tighten security by increasing the number of border patrol officers, improving fencing and the use of drones and other means. Once those goals are met, the pathway to legal permanent residency can begin.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
April 23, 2013 1:29 PM
The American people don't need any kind of immigrant reform. Million of American are out of jobs. They need jobs not immigrant reforms.


by: Sindh Agarwal from: Sunnyvale, CA
April 22, 2013 1:32 PM
The comment about employment authorization for H-1B spouses is only partially correct. Employment authorization will be given only if the country or origin extends the same provisions to spouses of U.S. workers in the that country. For. e.g., India does have such provisions

In Response

by: Sindh Agarwal from: Sunnyvale, CA
April 22, 2013 6:09 PM
Correction in my comment:
India does "not" have such provisions

In Response

by: Kate Woodsome from: Washington, DC
April 22, 2013 3:17 PM
Thank you so much for your comment. We have updated the story to include that detail.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid