US to hike H1B visas, merit will count for green cards
According to Senate aides, the number of H1B visas will go up from 85,000 to 205,000 and these will be primarily for the college-educated foreigners in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
The changes in green card rules will now give emphasis to skill and education. Currently, majority of green cards are issued based on family ties to US citizens - only about 16 percent are granted based on skills and their possible contributions to the economy. But the changes would increase that number to nearly 50 percent.
This could benefit Indians because of high-tech skills and education but the Indian companies will have to see small print of the Immigration Bill and work around it.
The group of senators known as the Gang of Eight have been working on the bill for more than two months and will announce their final draft of Immigration Bill on Wednesday (US standard time). The annoucement was scheduled for today (Tuesday, UST) but Senator Charles Schumer said they delayed it out of respect for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
The senators have proposed radical changes in visa and green card procedures and increase in cap in these categories.
However, the Indian IT companies may have to pay more to send their staff to work in the US. The changes put a curb on use of H-1B visa for those companies which have a higher ratio of work force under this category.
If the employer has 50 or more employees, and more than 30 per cent but less than 50 per cent are H-1B or L-1 employees (who do not have a green card petition pending), the employer will need to pay $5,000 fee per additional worker in either of these two statuses, the outline of the bill said.
In case the employer has 50 or more employees and more than 50 per cent of these workers are H-1B or L-1 employees who do not have a green card petition pending, then the companies will have to pay $10,000 fee per additional worker in either of these two statuses.
This will hit the margins of Indian companies like TCS, Wipro and Infosys but the American companies like IBM, Intel and Microsoft will escape the 'penalty'.
According to the draft bill, it would dramatically change the way the US grants visas and green cards for future immigrants.
It wants to eliminate the diversity visa lottery, which randomly grants up to 55,000 visas a year to people around the globe.
The bill also wants to end the practice of allowing US citizens to petition for green cards for their siblings.
A system of "merit-based" visa will be introduced, almost 250,000 visas a year based on a point system that measures applicants education, employment and other criteria.
In addition, up to 200,000 visas a year, known as W visas, will be given to the people to work in retail, construction, hospitality and janitorial jobs.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the bill on Friday and on Monday. If the draft legislation (Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernisation Act of 2013) is cleared by the Congress, it will be signed into law by President Barack Obama.