U.S. Lawmakers Engaged on Business Immigration Policy

Immigration policy has continued to be an extremely high-profile issue this year in the U.S. and around the globe.

While less so on workforce immigration issues, there still has been activity revolving around the shift in policies in the U.S. and abroad in regard to attracting foreign talent.

In the U.S., the traditional advocates in Congress for increasing high-skilled immigration look for openings to insert the issue into the larger immigration debate as the Administration narrows the focus on employment of foreign nationals. There is unlikely to be movement in the U.S. this year on significant workforce immigration legislation. However, there are still four months left in this Congress, so nothing can be ruled out. At the very least, the stage is being set for 2019.

With that in mind, Representatives of Worldwide ERC®, led by President and CEO Peggy Smith, have been meeting with key congressional offices involved on workforce and high-skilled immigration issues. We have been using our unique voice as the association for the mobility industry to become an invaluable resource for Congress on workforce immigration issues.

Worldwide ERC® has been monitoring and reporting on a number of mobility policies. Below is an update on some of the key immigration issues.

Administrative Actions

Entry Restrictions on Foreign Nationals

On 26 June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of third Presidential action suspending entry of foreign nationals from seven countries into the U.S. The Court ruled that President Trump has the authority on national security grounds to restrict travel into the U.S. President Trump put the current travel restrictions in place on 24 September 2017, through a Presidential proclamation.

The Presidential proclamation travel into the U.S. for foreign nationals from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen as well as government officials from Venezuela. The Proclamation does not apply the same restrictions universally to nationals from all countries. In the case of nationals from Libya and Yemen, individuals cannot obtain visas even for business travel. Whereas the restriction does not apply to nationals from the other countries.

Individuals affected by the suspension have the ability to seek a waiver on a case-by-case basis.  Finally, the previous executive actions were for periods of 90 days, the Proclamation does not have an expiration date.

Regulatory – Elimination of H-4 Work Authority

In December 2017, the Department of Homeland Security informed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the Department planned to publish a proposed rule to repeal the regulation permitting H-4 visa holders to work in the U.S. The regulation was issued in 2015 during the Obama Administration. The proposed rule initially was to be released in February but still has yet to be published.

The proposed rule will likely seek to revoke the employment authorization documents (EADs) of H-4 visa holders. Under the current regulation, approximately 71,000 H-4 visa holders have received EADs. Stakeholders will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed rule with the Department of Homeland Security expected to publish a final rule by the end of the year.

Congressional Activity

Fairness for High-Skilled Immigration Act

In the U.S. House of Representatives, then-Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017 (H.R 392). The legislation would remove the country caps (with limitations) on the number of green cards available to high-skilled workers from any particular country and implement a system based on the number of available green cards. The previous version of this legislation had passed the House with wide bipartisan support and H.R. 392 has 325 cosponsors at the time of print.  Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced a companion bill (S. 281) in the United States Senate.

The language of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017 was included in the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018 (H.R. 6136) which was one of the bills considered by the House to address the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA). H.R. The legislation, however, H.R. 6136 would have ultimately also decreased the number of eligible work visas.  On 27 June 2018, the House voted overwhelmingly against passage of the bill

Related: U.S. Congress Passes CFIUS Reform Measure

Immigration Innovation Act

On 25 January 2018 of this year, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Flake (R-ZA) reintroduced the Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act. Senators Hatch and Flake have introduced similar legislation in the last two Congresses. The legislation, S. 2344, has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

S. 2344 would among other policy changes do the following:

  • Increase the number of available H-1B visas to 85,000 from the current limit of 65,000 and implement an escalating clause that could increase the number by another 110,000 to meet demand.
  • Allow the spouses of high-skilled workers in the U.S. under a H-1B visa to also work if he or she meets other conditions.
  • Remove the cap of 20,000 on H-1B visa holders who have an advanced degree and not count toward the overall cap.
  • Increase the H-1B filing fees for employers would increase.
  • Allow the recapture unused green cards and eliminate the country cap on green cards.

In past Congresses, a similar bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives. A House companion bill has not yet been introduced. With Senators Hatch and Flake retiring at the end of this Congress, it is uncertain as to who would reintroduce the bill next Congress.

J-1 Visa

The J-1 Visa is an exchange visitor program which enables professors, students, government officials among others to travel to the U.S. to exchange knowledge and develop work experience. The program had been targeted for potential reduction but currently maintains bipartisan support in the Senate and no changes have been made thus far. In certain cases, suppliers involved in the relocation of an employee have been able to secure J-1 visas to handle temporary seasonal increases in demand for their services.

Related: Relinquishment of U.S. Citizenship Declines Sharply in 2018

How This Impacts Mobility

Over the course of the next few months, Worldwide ERC® plans to conduct additional meetings on Capitol Hill. The focus will be to continue to build the standing of Worldwide ERC® with key policymakers on immigration issue and advocate for policies to improve employee mobility.

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