US senator moves amendments to immigration reform bill focussing on merit

The amendments, moved by Senator Orrin Hatch, aims to eliminate annual per-country limits for employment-based green cards.

Published: 15th February 2018 12:09 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th February 2018 12:09 PM   |  A+A-

US President Donald Trump (File | AP)


WASHINGTON: In a move aimed at bringing in the issues of green card backlog and H-1B visa, a top American lawmaker has moved amendment to a White House-backed immigration bill that mostly focusses on illegal immigration and merit-based immigration.

The amendments, moved by Senator Orrin Hatch, aims to eliminate annual per-country limits for employment-based green cards so that applicants from more populous countries are not unfairly discriminated against relative to applicants from less populous countries.

"I have long said, high-skilled immigration is merit-based immigration," Hatch said after moving the amendments yesterday.

It increases worker mobility for individuals on the path to a green card by enabling such individuals to change jobs earlier in the process without losing their place in the green card line.

It also codifies existing regulations regarding spousal work authorisation and post-education practical training.

The amendments exempt holders of US master's degrees or higher who are being sponsored for green cards from the annual numerical limitations on H–1B visas and subjects employers who fail to employ an H–1B worker for more than three months during the individual's first year of work authorisation to a penalty.

Also, it further updates 1998 law exempting H–1B dependent employers from certain recruitment and non-displacement requirements.

In particular, the amendment raises from USD 60,000 to USD 100,000 the H–1B salary level at which the salary-based exemption takes effect, narrows education-based exemption to H–1B hires with a US PhD, and eliminates exemption for "super-dependent" employers altogether.

"It's immigration targeted at the best, the brightest, and the most highly educated. The amendments, I filed today, are focused, commonsense reforms that will make a real difference for our economy," Hatch said.

"In particular, they will help streamline the process by which a worker with in-demand technical skills can obtain a green card and will cut back on some of the troubling abuses we have seen with the H-1B programme. These are important reforms that can attract broad support, and I intend to pursue every opportunity to include them in the pending immigration bill," the lawmaker said.

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