On Jan. 25, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced S. 2344, the Immigration Innovation Act of 2018, or I-Squared.  I-Squared has been long-championed by Senator Hatch and the reintroduction of it this Congress includes “updates for this Congress.” Per Senator Hatch-

Here’s what’s new to I-Squared this Congress.

First, and most important, the bill creates an express prohibition on hiring an H-1B worker with the purpose and intent to replace an American worker. That was never the intent of the H-1B program and must not be allowed to happen.

Second, the bill creates an express prohibition on conditioning an employee’s pay or severance on training an H-1B replacement.

Third, the bill raises the Level-1 wage employers must pay to prevent employers from using H-1B workers to undercut labor costs.

Fourth, the bill updates the 1998 law that exempts H-1B employers from certain recruitment and nondisplacement requirements if the employer pays its H-1B employees a high enough salary. Specifically, the bill raises the salary threshold to match inflation and eliminates the exemption altogether for particularly heavy users of H-1Bs.

Fifth, the bill imposes penalties on employers who file more H-1B petitions than they need to prevent large, cash-rich employers from freezing out small businesses. All of these provisions will work to tamp down on the abuses we’ve seen in the H-1B system.

My updated I-Squared bill will also end the problem of H-1B workers who are on the path to a green card being locked into their current job by enabling such workers to change jobs earlier in the process without losing their place in the green card line. And it creates a new, streamlined green card process for high-skilled workers who wish to come to the United States on a permanent basis to obtain conditional residency without having to use the cumbersome H-1B system.

Many of the problems with our current H-1B program stem from the fact that workers seeking temporary employment and workers seeking long-term employment are funneled into the same system. My updated I-Squared bill will help separate these two employment streams in ways that will benefit both employers and employees.

Finally, my updated I-Squared bill will provide nearly a billion dollars in new funding for STEM education and worker training programs without raising a single cent in taxes. It does this by increasing fees for H-1B petitions and green cards and directing the new funding to state block grants for STEM training. (Sen. Hatch floor remarks, Jan 25).

Additionally, and importantly to all employment-based visa categories, I-Squared eliminates derivatives and per country quotas for immigrant visas.

We will be monitoring action on this bill and other immigration matters before the Congress. Please check back for updates.

For more information on H-1B updates, click here.