The Gang of Eight just got one step closer to creating more paths for workers of all levels to come to the U.S. legally. The comprehensive immigration reform bill is set to head to the full Senate after the Judiciary Committee approved the bill 13-5 on Tuesday night.
As a nation and as lawyers representing many small and large U.S. companies, we are closely watching the developments of this controversial bipartisan bill that will affect our businesses.
One important path this immigration reform bill would create affects highly skilled workers under H-1B visas. These visas were cut off this year in the very first week -- showing how in demand foreign workers are for our businesses and economy.
The bill proposes to increase the H-1B cap amount from the current 65,000 to at least 110,000, and up to 180,000 depending on employer demand. This would be a tremendous improvement to the flawed system we have to work with now.
However, be aware that the proposed bill would limit those companies that are H-1B reliant. If your company counts more than 75 percent of its workforce as H-1B workers, it can be banned from hiring more foreign workers starting in 2014. Then, the percentage for cut-off would drop 65 percent in 2015 and 50 percent in 2016.
Another benefit to some companies is the possible newly created "W" visa for lower skilled guest workers. This program would allow for 20,000 temporary workers starting in 2015 and it would rise through the years to 75,000 by 2019.
The caveat of this W visa is that the workers cannot be employed in major cities where unemployment is above 8.5 percent. It's anticipated that construction companies, hotels, nursing homes, and other labor-dependent businesses would benefit from this new program.
So, if your company is in need of temporary low-skilled workers, you will have to look elsewhere unless these circumstances apply or you are willing to pay them more than the prevailing wage. The purpose is to ensure low-skilled foreign workers do not take away jobs from unemployed American workers.
Businesses of all types are going to keep a close watch as this bill goes through the Senate. Whether your company is a hospitality business, or a tech company, this bill can affect you.
- Sweeping Immigration Reform Pitched By Senate's 'Gang of Eight' (FindLaw's Courtside Blog)
- Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers (USCIS)
- These Three Facts Prove that America Needs More Immigrants (Business Insider)