Law Services in South Florida


Immigration Reform Bill Increasing Work Visas Passes Senate


Immigration Reform Bill Increasing Work Visas Passes Senate


The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill on a 68-32 vote Thursday. The bill offers 11 million people living in the country illegally a path to citizenship while also dramatically increasing the number of worker visas for high-skilled workers.

The bill raises the H-1B visa cap to 110,000 from 65,000, though a provision allows an even higher extension to 180,000 if the labor markets demand it. It also makes it easier for foreign-born students who’ve acquired an advanced degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field to stay in the country.

Technology leaders lobbied hard for the H-1B cap raise and the student visa, claiming there’s a lack of sufficient homegrown STEM talent in the United States. That argument is debatable, though the bill’s changes will make it easier for technology companies to hire top global talent.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called the Senate’s vote “a significant step toward reforming our nation’s outdated immigration policies.”

“If enacted, these changes will strengthen our economic security, foster innovation and enable continued job growth in the U.S.,” Ballmer said in a statement after the vote.

Labor groups and some lawmakers fiercely opposed raising the H-1B limit. They argued H-1B visas make it harder for Americans to find work and create an artificial government subsidy by supplying firms with foreign labor that’s cheaper than domestic workers.

A compromise deal between technology firms and labor groups included in the bill requires companies to ensure a qualified American worker isn’t available to fill a specific role before hiring a foreign worker for the job. Additionally, fees from the H-1B visas would be funneled into funding for improving STEM education in the United States.

The Senate’s bill also includes $46 billion for improving border security.

Comprehensive immigration reform now moves to the House of Representatives. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said the legislative body he leads won’t pass the bill unless it has majority support from both parties, which many commentators agree will be an unlikely result.