August 1, 2006
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that, as of July 26th, it had received enough H-1B petitions for "foreign workers who have earned a master's degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education" to meet the exemption limit of 20,000 established by Congress for fiscal year (FY) 2007. This is on top of having reached the overall H-1B cap of 65,000 on May 6, more than four months before the start of the fiscal year.
Both the House and Senate have introduced the Securing Knowledge Innovation and Leadership Bill, ("SKIL Bill", S.2691/H.R. 5744), a measure that would provide much needed reform to the H-1B visa system. Highlights of the SKIL Bill include the following:
1. Exemptions for U.S.-educated foreign workers with master's or higher degrees from the H-1B and employment based (EB) green card quotas so their talent can be retained in the United States.
2. Creation of a flexible, market-based H-1B cap so that U.S. employers are not locked out of hiring critical talent for over a year at a time.
3. Extension of foreign students' post-graduation practical training from 12 months to 24 months.
4. Removal of employment-based immigrant spouses and children from the count against the annual green card limit, thus making more visas available for the innovative professionals we need.