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Immigration Update

April 19, 2013

How Will the New Immigration Bill Affect US Businesses?

The first comprehensive immigration reform legislation in several years was introduced in the U.S. Senate yesterday. The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (“BSEOIMA”) is 822 pages long and contains a lot of novel immigration ideas, as well as tweaks to the existing system. We have created a quick summary of the largest business immigration-related sections. But what is the bottom line? Our thoughts:

H-1B Visas: Yes, we will have more H-1B visa numbers. They will cost more to acquire, U.S. Businesses will have to pay H-1B workers more money, and there will be a pre-filing U.S. recruitment requirement if passed as written.

Green Card Backlogs: The highly educated will be put into an expedited process. STEM degree holders will have their own place in line, and more immigrant visa numbers allocated to those with degrees in technical and sought-after fields.

E-Verify: It is coming for everybody, really small businesses included. But, it will have greater security measures to protect personal identity information to cut down on social security number misuse.

New Visas: The W visa – for everyday workers in hard-to-fill positions. And a new entrepreneur visa for foreign nationals heading their own start-up. Silicon Valley will be very happy with this one.

Merit-Based Immigration: Yes, we will now be joining the rest of the civilized world by creating a point-based visa scheme, allocating immigrant visas to those with the most education, longest employment, U.S. residency and the like. The list of metrics is large, but will likely be broken down into some sort of formula before the Congressional wrangling ends.

We do have a few takeaways from all of this. If passed, there is wording requiring that applications filed prior to its passage be adjudicated before anyone is given benefits under various new provisions. If you have been waiting to sponsor an employee for Permanent Resident status, now would be the time to re-consider. CIS recently finished processing the piles of Green Card applications filed under the last “amnesty”/legalization legislation from 2001. Get in front of the next line and file now. This holds doubly true for family-based applications, as the bill would eliminate sponsorship eligibility for brothers and sisters of US citizens, and cap the age of eligibility for married children of US Citizens and Permanent Residents to 31.

We will continue to monitor the progress of the bill as it goes through the amendment process and update our clients on key provisions that may affect them. If you have questions regarding actions to take now in anticipation of the passage of the BSEOIMA, please contact a member of the Moore & Van Allen Immigration Team.