We have been monitoring developments around the H.R. 3012 legislation aimed at removing the per-country annual limits for the immigrant visa categories. We have written extensively in the past and many of our clients and readers are very interested in any developments with H.R. 3012 because of its wide (and significant) impact on employment-based immigrant visa applicants.
Senator Grassley Removes Hold on H.R. 3012 – July 11, 2012
Many of our readers would remember that Senator Grassley placed a hold on H.R. 3012 because of his concerns with the H-1B program and possible abuses. We wrote on June 28, 2012 of Senator Grassley’s proposal that in exchange of his lifting his hold on the bill, the bill would be amended to include significant H-1B audit and enforcement mechanisms.
Subsequently, Senators Grassley and Schummer have reached an agreement and on July 11, 2012, Senator Grassley removed his hold from H.R. 3012. Here is his statement, as added into the Congressional Record on July 11th:
Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, today I lift my hold on H.R. 3012, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. This bill would eliminate the per-country numerical limitations for employment based immigrants and change the per-country numerical limitations for family-based immigrants. When I placed a hold on the bill, I was concerned that the bill did nothing to better protect Americans at home who seek high-skilled jobs during this time of record unemployment. Today , I lift my hold because I have reached an agreement with the senior Senator from New York, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security.
I have spent a lot of time and effort into rooting out fraud and abuse in our visa programs, specifically the H-1B visa program. I have always said this program can and should serve as a benefit to our country, our economy and our U.S. employers. However, it is clear that it is not working as intended, and the program is having a detrimental effect on American workers.
For many years, Senator Durbin and I have worked on legislation to close the loopholes in the H-1B visa program. Our legislation would ensure that American workers are afforded the first chance to obtain the available high paying and high skilled jobs in the United States. It would make sure visa holders know their rights. It would strengthen the wage requirements, ridding the incentives for companies to hire cheap, foreign labor.
While I could not get everything that was included in the Durbin-Grassley visa reform bill, there is agreement to include in H.R. 3012 provisions that give greater authority to program overseers to investigate visa fraud and abuse. Specifically, there will be language authorizing the Department of Labor to better review labor condition applications and investigate fraud and misrepresentation by employers. There is also agreement to include a provision allowing the Federal Government to do annual compliance audits of employers who bring in foreign workers through the H-1B visa program.
I appreciate the willingness of other members to work with me to include measures that will help us combat visa fraud, and ultimately protect more American workers. I look forward to working with others as H.R. 3012 progresses in the Senate.
Plenty of Work Still Ahead for H.R. 3012
Sen. Grassley’s hold removal is a significant step towards H.R. 3012 becoming a law. However, many steps (and time) remain before the bill would actually become a law. First, the bill must continue to make its way through the U.S. Senate where it must pass. Afterwards, the bill must be taken by the U.S. House of Representatives and must be reconciled with the version of H.R. 3012 which was earlier passed by the House in a different form.
A quick reminder on how Congress passes laws: a bill must pass both the Senate and the House in identical form and must be then signed by the President to become a law.
Only after the House votes on the bill, in identical form to the text which was approved by the Senate, would then President Obama have a chance to sign it into law.
In an election year, as the politics heat up, we simply do not know what other roadblocks the bill may face in the Senate or later, after it gets to the House. We will continue to monitor developments on this legislation and provide updates. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any assistance or answer any questions. We also invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.