We have provided a snapshot of the immigration system and an overview of today's immigration maze in part 1 and part 2 of our Immigration 101 series, respectively. As our final part in the series, we cover the 6 "need to knows" about the historic Senate Immigration Bill unveiled this week.
The Path to Citizenship
The bill includes a path to citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants. It's a long path (possibly as long as 10 years) with many non-applicant conditions (like securing the border) that must be met to go into effect plus the potential for multiple fines. The first step on this path is a new immigration status called ‰ÛÏRegistered Provisional Immigrant, which can be applied for 6 months after the bill is signed into law.
All Hail the Entrepreneurs
Founders of U.S. startups receive a few paths to citizenship (not just temporary status), but they all require raising capital and employing U.S. citizens. To qualify entrepreneurs must have "significant ownership" in a U.S. business, be employed in a senior position, and have been heavily involved in the founding or early growth of the business. For the details on whether your business qualifies, read this excellent post from Watson Immigration.
Intelligent Visa Caps
Gone are the days where immigration caps are set in stone. The more modern language in this bill allows for caps to reflect prevailing trends in national and regional unemployment and salary rates and automatically revise the number of immigrants accepted. While this isn't likely to prevent high tech businesses from clamoring for more H1-Bs in five years, it sets an important precedent of directly tying immigration policy to key economic figures.
We Need Your Best and Brightest
The visa program that allows high skilled employment visas (H1-B, L) is set to dramatically expand with the immigration cap doubling to 110,000 in the first year of the program. Additionally the bill increases the cost to employ these immigrants by increasing salary requirements, application fees, and penalties if your business employs more than set ratios of these immigrants. Techcrunch broke down the details of this program in more detail.
We Need Your Manual Laborers
The biggest change in immigration processes is likely the creation of a new visa category for low-wage workers along with additional government oversight to manage the program. The W visa is designed to grant temporary visas to immigrants employed in professions that suffer labor shortfalls. Over time, these immigrants can apply for citizenship through the new merit-based visa program.
Everything is Conditional on Border Security
Border security is getting a lot of attention in this bill as it gets an initial increase of $4.5 billion to add additional security personnel and fencing to border areas. In fact, many of the provisions discussed above are contingent on a few key security conditions being met:
- Continuous surveillance in all high risk sectors (some sectors are already at 100%, but others are at a mere 11%)
- Once monitoring is continuous, a 90% success rate apprehending or turning back entrants
This is a cursory look at 6 features of the bill that caught our eye. To learn more we highly recommend a few other takes on this important legislation:
Senate Immigration Bill - The Good, the Bad, the Ugly by Prerna Lal
Immigration Bill Simplified: 5 Proposed Changes for High Skilled Immigrants by Gregory Ferenstein
Startup Visa Provisions from Watson Immigration
Outline of the Immigration Bill from the Senators themselves!