Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is immigration reform?

A: Immigration reform is the initiative to make changes to the current immigration laws in order to improve them and better the situation of immigrants.

Q: How does a law get made?

A:  In order for a law to be made in the US, both Houses of Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate must pass identical bills and the President must then sign the bill into law.

Q: What is the difference between the House of Representatives bill and the Senate bill?

A: The major difference between the two bills is that the Senate bill is more encompassing of the immigrant issues that exist, including border security, citizenship, visas, and illegal immigrants currently residing and working in the US. The House of Representatives bill on the other hand focuses solely on border protection and security.

Q: Which bill is more encompassing?

A: The bill passed by the Senate is more encompassing and comprehensive.

Q: What will happen now that two very different bills have been passed?

A: The two Houses will send members from each House to a joint conference where the Senators and Representatives will make compromises and eventually write one bill that they agree on. After this, the bill will be submitted to each House for approval. If both Houses approve the bill, then it will go to the President who will make a decision.

Q: What provisions for the H-1B visa are included in the Senate bill?

A: Due to the current rapid exhaustion of the H1-B visa quota, the Senate has included in its bill an increase in the H-1B cap to 115.000 for three years and an increase up to 20% each year, in subsequent years, if the cap was completely used in the previous year.  The cap for the following year will remain the same, unless it is completely exhausted again.

For example, if the cap in 2011 is 115,000 and it is completely used, then in 2012 that cap will be 138,000.  The cap in 2013 will also be 138,000, unless it was completely exhausted in 2012, in which case it will be 165,600.

Also, the bill has provisions to broaden the cap exemptions to include all non-profit institutions, exempt all advanced degree holders from US universities (i.e. no 20,000 limit), create a 20,000 cap exemption for graduates of institutions of higher education from foreign countries, and exemptions for physicians with medical specialty certification.

Q: What provisions for the backlog are included in the Senate bill?

A: In order to reduce the backlog of family-based and employment-based immigration, the bill allows for an increase in the number of employment-based green cards from 140,000 to 250,000 for FY 2007 to FY 2016 and then the number of employment-based green cards to be set at 290,000 and will allow for unused visa numbers to be recaptured and reused. In order to relieve the family-based immigration backlog, the bill says that visas for spouses and children will not be counted against the limit.

Q: What provisions for the S visa are included in the Senate bill?

A:  The Senate bill contains a provision to increase the S visa limit from 200 to 1000.

Q: What is the H-2C visa?

A: The H-2C visa will be a new visa category and will be available to anyone, either in legal status in the US or outside the US.  Aliens who wish to temporarily work in the US and the services or labor they will perform are not covered by H-1B, H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, and L, O, P, or R visas will be able to apply for the H-2C visa. Applicants must have no intention of abandoning their country of residence and must undergo a specific procedure, along with their employer, to obtain and H-2C visa.  These visas will be available for a period of three years and may be renewed only once for another three years.

Q: What provisions does the Senate bill have for F student visas?

A:  For F student visas, the bill will increase the Optional Practical Training (OPT) that F-1 visa holders may participate in from 12 months to 24 months, a new F-4 student visa will be created for students wishing to pursue an advanced degree in math, engineering, technology, or the physical sciences, F-1 and F-4 students would be able to accept employment off-campus and outside the student’s area of study, and an F-5 visa category will be created for students who fulfill the F-1 requirements but are participating in a distance learning program and reside in their country of nationality. 

Q: What provisions does the Senate bill have for J student visas?

A: A new J-STEM visa will be available to those who are pursuing an advanced degree in the sciences, technology, engineering, or math.  Those with a J-STEM visa will not be subject to the two year foreign residency requirement.

Q: What is the “blue card” visa?

A: The “blue card” visa is available for agricultural workers and is a temporary visa, which will eventually enable the workers to apply for permanent residency if they fulfill certain criteria.  There will be up to 1,500,000 blue cards available in the five year period from the enactment of the bill.

Q: What changes will be made to the green card lottery?

A:  In the green card lottery, two thirds of the spaces will be set aside for those with masters degrees or higher.

Q: What changes will be made to the labor certification process?

A: In order to alleviate delays in the labor certification process, the Department of Labor responsible for prevailing wage determinations (not the state workforce agency), the DOL will have a 20 day limit to make a prevailing wage determination, decisions about appeals and motions to reopen labor certification cases must be made within 60 days of filing, a process will be created to allow employers to make technical corrections to labor certification applications, and the labor certification requirement will no longer be applicable to those with advanced degrees in math, technology, engineering, or the sciences from American Universities. 

Q: What provisions are included in the Senate bill for illegal immigrants already in the US?

A: The bill allows for illegal immigrants living in the US for more than five years, two to five years, and less than two years to become legal immigrants without facing a harsh penalty or being deported, provided they follow the procedure.

Q: Does the House bill allow for a citizenship path for immigrants illegally present in the US?

A: No. There is no provision in the House bill to allow illegal immigrants to become legal permanent residents.

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