WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Coons (D-DE) today introduced immigration legislation aimed at boosting high-tech innovation in the United States.  The bipartisan bill reforms the visa system to help ensure the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs get their start in America, regardless of where they are born. The Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 would revamp the H-1B visa and employment-based green card systems to meet the demands of the high-tech economy and improve protections for workers while making major investments in STEM education and worker retraining programs in America.

America must be a country that makes things again, that invents things, that exports to the world, and to do that we need the world’s talent,” said Klobuchar. “Right now we’re educating and training our competition by sending students who obtain advanced degrees here in the U.S. back to their home countries. We don’t want them creating the next Medtronic or 3M in India, we want them creating it right here in Minnesota and across America.”

"This bill is a common sense approach to ensuring that those who have come here to be educated in high-tech fields have the ability to stay here with their families and contribute to the economy and our society,”Hatch said. “It's a market-driven path forward to fulfilling a need in our immigration system and growing the economy. It's good for workers, good for businesses trying to grow, and good for our economy."

“Our immigration system needs to be modernized to be more welcoming of highly skilled immigrants and the enormous contributions they can make to our economy and society,” said Rubio. “This reform is as much about modernizing our immigration system as it is about creating jobs. It'll help us attract more highly skilled workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, which will help our unemployed, underemployed or underpaid American workers find better jobs."

“The creativity, ingenuity, and determination that immigrants have brought to this county have been a large part of our economic success,” Coons said. “Our immigration system is broken, though, and as the Senate gets to work on comprehensive immigration reform, it’s important that we take steps to ensure that the world’s best and brightest do their work here in the United States. Inspiration is a precious resource, and if we want those ideas to be turned into job-creating innovations here in the U.S., we need to make it easier for those individuals to earn status here."

According to a studyby the Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan group of mayors and business leaders from around the country, each H-1B worker creates 1.8 jobs for American workers.

A summary of the bill is below (a pdf can be found HERE). The full text of the legislation can be found HERE.

Immigration Innovation (I2) Act of 2013

Employment-Based Nonimmigrant H-1B Visas

·         Increase H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000

·         Establish a market-based H-1B escalator, so that the cap can adjust – up or down – to the demands of the economy (includes a 300,000 ceiling on the ability of the escalator to move)

o   If the cap is hit in the first 45 days when petitions may be filed, an additional 20,000 H-1B visas will be made available immediately. 

o   If the cap is hit in the first 60 days when petitions may be filed, an additional 15,000 H-1B visas will be made available immediately. 

o   If the cap is hit in the first 90 days when petitions may be filed, an additional 10,000 H-1B visas will be made available immediately. 

o   If the cap is hit during the 185-day period ending on the 275th day on which petitions may be filed, and additional 5,000 H-1B will be made available immediately.

·         Uncap the existing U.S. advanced degree exemption (currently limited to 20,000 per year)

·         Authorize employment for dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders

·         Increase portability of visa holders by:

o   Removing impediments and costs of changing employers;

o   Establishing a clear transition period for foreign workers as they change jobs; and,

o   Restoring visa revalidation for E, H, L, O, and P nonimmigrant visa categories

Student Visas

·         Allow dual intent for foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities to provide the certainty they need to ensure their future in the United States

Immigrant Visas and Green Cards

·         Enable the recapture of green card numbers that were approved by Congress in previous years but were not used

·         Exempt certain categories of persons from the employment-based green card cap:

o   Dependents of employment-based immigrant visa recipients

o   U.S. STEM advance degree holders

o   Persons with extraordinary ability

o   Outstanding professors and researchers

·         Provide for the roll-over of unused employment-based immigrant visa numbers to the following fiscal year so future visas are not lost due to bureaucratic delays

·         Eliminate annual per-country limits for employment based visa petitioners and adjust per-country caps for family-based immigrant visas

U.S. STEM Education & Worker Retraining Initiative

·         Reform fees on H-1B visas and employment-based green cards; use money from these fees to fund a grant program to promote STEM education and worker retraining to be administered by the states