New Immigration Bill Has Some Familiar H-1B Visa Proposals

The "Strive Act," which addresses many hot-button issues, including border security, might have a better chance of passage this time around.
A new session of Congress means a new round of immigration reform bills. The first among the new proposals -- touting a familiar provision to raise the H-1B visa cap -- was slated for introduction today in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The comprehensive bipartisan "Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act of 2007," or Strive Act, is being unveiled by U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

The new legislation is a comprehensive immigration reform bill that addresses many hot-button issues, including border security, that were also featured in other reform bills introduced last year in the Senate and House, but which failed to get traction.

Like those earlier sidelined bills, Strive proposes to increase the annual cap on H-1B visas -- the visa most commonly used for foreign technology pros -- from the current ceiling of 65,000 to 115,000. The Strive Act also proposes increasing the limit up to 180,000 in subsequent years if the 115,000 cap is reached during a given fiscal year. In addition, the bill proposes exempting from the cap certain individuals who have earned an advanced degree in science, technology, engineering, or math at U.S. schools.

In the last several years, the H-1B cap has been hit months before the new fiscal year even began.

The U.S. government on April 1 will begin accepting H-1B petitions for fiscal 2008, which begins on Oct. 1.

A spokesman for Flake says the Strive Act "is a continuation" of the sort of reforms that were proposed last year. However, the representative is "hopeful" the Strive bill will pass because "the Democrats want comprehensive reform."

Among the bills that lost steam last year in the Senate was the Skil bill, which was more narrowly focused than the other immigration reform bills that were introduced. The Skil bill zeroed in on issues related to raising the annual H-1B visa cap and streamlining processes related to so-called employment-based green cards, or permanent residency.

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