Finance chairman to propose overhaul of worker visas

Finance chairman to propose overhaul of worker visas
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchFinance to hold hearing on ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea Week ahead in finance: Clock ticking for GOP on tax reform MORE on Thursday said he plans to introduce legislation to update the visa system for highly skilled immigrants.

The Utah Republican said he is working on an update of his 2015 Immigration Innovation Act, or I-Squared, and plans to put forward the legislation "in the near future.”

Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the new legislation could seek to cap the number of H-1B visas that an employer can apply for.

The visas are typically given to high-skilled foreign workers, mainly in the science and technology fields.

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Hatch said the bill could also streamline the process for getting a green card and floated the idea of “shot clock” so that visas would expire and go back into the lottery pool if not promptly used.

His 2015 legislation intended to raise the total H-1B cap from its current 65,000 to between 115,000 and 195,000 “depending upon market conditions and existing demand.” The bill also called for increasing H-1B visa fees and would pump that money back into STEM education and training.

During Hatch’s speech in Washington unveiling his plans for high skilled immigration and other issues important to the technology sector, he said he has President Trump's ear and could be a conduit between technology interests and the White House.

“I think the president trusts me," Hatch said. “I can serve as a bridge between the president and the tech community.”

On Wednesday, Hatch told the Morning Consult that he had been speaking with Trump on H-1B visas.

“You count on me getting [the benefits of H-1Bs] across to him,” Hatch said. “I think I have already, but I’m going to continue until there’s no question he understands me.”

In his 2015 book, Great Again, Trump, like Hatch, championed increasing fees for high skilled immigration visas, but instead advocated for directing the money to his proposed wall on the U.S. Mexican border instead of STEM education.

Trump has since waffled on his position regarding H-1B visas and is expected to sign an executive order on high-skilled immigration sometime in the near future. 

A leaked draft of Trump’s forthcoming executive order on H-1B visas, and his other policies restricting immigration have already caused consternation among many in tech that the president will hamper high skilled immigration.