Schumer and Hatch strike breakthrough deal on H-1B visas

Sens. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP lawmaker: Dems not standing for Trump is 'un-American' Trump called for unity — he didn’t even last a week Overnight Defense: GOP plays hardball by attaching defense funding to CR | US reportedly drawing down in Iraq | Russia, US meet arms treaty deadline | Why the military wants 6B from Congress MORE (D-N.Y.) and Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchOvernight Tech: Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up hack | Apple considers battery rebates | Regulators talk bitcoin | SpaceX launches world's most powerful rocket Overnight Cybersecurity: Tillerson proposes new cyber bureau at State | Senate bill would clarify cross-border data rules | Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up breach Hatch introduces bipartisan bill to clarify cross-border data policies MORE (R-Utah) struck a deal Tuesday on visas for high-skilled workers, a major breakthrough for the Senate immigration reform bill.

The deal paves the way for Hatch, the most senior member of the Senate Republican Conference, to support the immigration legislation pending in the Judiciary Committee.

Now Democrats have a strong chance of reporting it out of committee with a vote of 13 to 5, with three Republican yes votes.

The compromise covers eight amendments sponsored by Hatch to make the process for granting H-1B visas more palatable to high-tech companies.

It largely accepts Hatch amendments number 12 and 13, which were opposed by the AFL-CIO.

The broad bill requires employers filing visa petitions to first offer a job to an “equally qualified” U.S. worker. Hatch’s revised amendment number 12 would impose this requirement only on “H-1B-dependent” companies but clarifies the definition of such companies.

The underlying bill also bars companies from displacing a U.S. worker within 90 days of filing a visa petition for an H-1B worker. Hatch’s amendment number 13 would shield non-H-1B-dependent companies by allowing them to only stipulate that they do not have the intent to displace U.S. workers.

The Schumer-Hatch deal accepts the original intent standard for non-H-1B companies but only for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) positions. For all other professions, there would remain a strict prohibition against displacing workers within 90 days of visa petitions.

The compromise represents a coup for the tech industry, which had been waging a battle behind the scenes to rally support for Hatch's amendments. Tech companies have said the amendments are key to addressing sections of the bill that would make them go through additional regulatory hurdles when hiring foreign workers through the H-1B visa program.

The tech industry uses H-1B visas to hire foreign workers with specialized skills, including computer programmers, engineers and scientists. 

While the Gang of Eight's immigration bill addresses the tech industry's call to expand the H-1B visa cap, tech companies argued that the new regulations in the bill would make it more difficult for them to secure the visas they need to fill open technical positions.

The deal has not won backing from labor groups. The nation's largest labor federation said it still opposes Hatch's amendments and they would put American workers at a disadvantage. 

"We remain opposed to Hatch’s amendments that would undermine American workers’ access to the jobs of the future," said Jeff Hauser, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO. 

Updated at 12:57 p.m.