Hatch pushes for immigration reform focused on high-skilled workers

Hatch pushes for immigration reform focused on high-skilled workers
© Greg Nash

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchUS to open trade talks with Japan, EU, UK Hatch mocks Warren over DNA test with his own results showing '1/1032 T-Rex' Romney defends Trump’s policies as ‘effective,' disputes he led 'never Trump' movement MORE (R-Utah) on Wednesday introduced a series of amendments focused on high-skilled immigration reform.

The amendments to the pending Senate immigration legislation aim to both target companies that are overly dependent on H-1B immigration visas and streamline the process for some workers to gain green cards.

Specific provisions include exempting those with U.S. masters degrees from the H-1B program’s 85,000-worker annual cap, scrapping caps on visas issued to workers from specific countries and penalizing employers that don’t employ H-1B workers within three months of obtaining visas for them.

The amendments would also allow spouses of H-1B holders to obtain work visas, a program that has been in the crosshairs of the Trump administration.

 “As I’ve long said, high-skilled immigration is merit-based immigration,” Hatch said in a statement. “It’s immigration targeted at the best, the brightest, and the most highly educated. The amendments I filed today are focused, commonsense reforms that will make a real difference for our economy."

Hatch’s proposal bears some elements of the Immigration Innovation bill he introduced last month, but it does not include a provision to increase the overall amount of H-1B visas.

That latter point has been a key consideration for the tech industry.

Andy Halataei, senior vice president of government affairs with the Information Technology Industry Council, a tech industry lobbying group, explained that Hatch’s amendments are the “most achievable reforms.”

“We’re encouraged that the Senate is debating immigration legislation,” he said. “We’re cautiously optimistic that there’s enough common ground among senators to get this done.”