With the full Senate starting its debate on a comprehensive immigration bill, Republican lawmakers in the House have released a plan of their own.
The Skills Visa Act, by Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), isn't completely new and is based on earlier legislation. But what is a little different about the bill are the Web pages built around it. It's an attractive site, with big graphics and code for embedding the bill.
There's also a button link from The House website to forum for discussion operated by TechCrunch, which, editorially, has been mostly supportive of increased skilled-based immigration.
The bill is very similar to a proposal submitted last year by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). That bill received majority approval, 257 to 158, but it required two-thirds to pass and it fell short of that number.
The Skills bill provides up to 55,000 green cards to foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees. They must have a job offer as well.
The main immigration bill, for now, is in the Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill the week and debate on the Senate floor is expected to begin next month.
The Skills bill also offers green cards to entrepreneurs who meet certain investment thresholds. These entrepreneurs will get conditional green cards, and up to three years if they create jobs for at least five American workers. They will also have two years to raise either $1 million in capital or generate not less than $1 million in revenue.
The bill will raise the base H-1B cap of 65,000 to 155,000. It also increases the number of visas set aside for advanced degree graduates of U.S. universities from 20,000 to 40,000.
The Senate bill raises the base H-1B cap to 180,000, and increases the advance degree visas to 25,000.
Issa's bill also makes adjustments to the prevailing wage formula designed to raise the salaries of H-1B workers, and "protect American workers from adverse effect of the H-1B program," according to a bill summary.
Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is [email protected].
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