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Does the term “I-Squared” ring a bell? It's the nickname for "Immigration Innovation Act," legislation first introduced in 2015 that is on the verge of reappearing. If it passes, it could expand the H-1B visa program even further. Speaking with Axios, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) spokesperson Matt Whitlock confirmed the bill is in the works. The most ambitious part of the proposed legislation (Axios obtained a copy) is the expansion of the H-1B visa program to 195,000 recipients, annually. The current cap on H-1B visas is 85,000. In addition to expanding the H-1B program, the bill will also allow spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the United States legally. Here are Axios’ other takeaways from the bill:
  • Eliminates the per-country caps for green cards.
  • Increases visa fees to provide nearly $1 billion for STEM education and training programs for U.S. workers.
  • Allows approved, unused green cards from previous years to be reissued.
  • Expands the cap for researchers and those who have advanced degrees.
  • Raises the minimum salary H-1B dependent firms must pay their visa workers to $100,000.
  • Requires that the salary be increased based on inflation every three years, specifically targeting India-based outsourcing firms who are H-1B dependent (meaning more than 15% of their workforce are visa holders).
  • Makes it easier for H-1B workers to move to other companies without the threat of losing their visa sponsor.
  • Calls for a study within a year of the bill's enactment to reevaluate which kinds of jobs are eligible for H-1B workers.
  • Simplifies the H-1B petitioning process for employers.
  • Requires that companies applying for H-1B visas prove they made efforts to recruit Americans to the same positions first.
Whitlock said, “High-skilled immigration is merit-based immigration,” and added that I-Squared "represents an ideal first step in bringing Republicans and Democrats together to address flaws in our broken immigration system.” Right now, it’s hard to make heads or tails of the H-1B landscape, or proposal of reform. The Trump administration was set to tackle spouses of H-1B holders, eliminating the H-4 visa that allows them to work stateside. This new "I-Squared" bill would allow spouses to work, and it's not the only legislation making its way through the House and Senate. It would be safe to assume Orrin Hatch’s blessing would be enough to give "I-Squared" legs in Congress, but it’s not the first time we’ve seen this particular bill. It first appeared in 2015, co-sponsored by senators Jeff Flake and Marco Rubio. Axios didn’t say whether or not those two were on-board this time, but the text does have edits from Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware).