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Congress Fails To Pass Worker Visa Relief

by Gregory Siskind

Congress has quietly dropped a section of the budget savings bill passed this weekend that would have raised more than a half billion dollars and offered relief to backlogs in the H-1B non-immigrant program and in employment-based green card categories. The measure had been included in a Senate version of the bill, but the House version of the budget bill only had a provision calling for a tax on L-1 visas. Several Republican members the House of Representatives, the chamber that holds more hostile views on immigration, threatened to vote against the compromise bill if the immigration provisions were not dropped. All immigration provisions, including the House’s L-1 visa tax, were stripped out of the bill at the last moment.


The bill would have made the following reforms:


H-1B visas reform


Changes to the H-1B program would have included the following:


  1. The proposal would recapture unused H-1B numbers that were not used in prior fiscal years when the H-1B cap is reached up to a maximum of 30,000 in any particular year. The recapture period would go back to 1991, the first year there was an H-1B cap.
  2. These “bonus” H-1Bs accompanied by a recapture fee of $500 per visa. An estimated $150 would be raised through such a fee over a five year period.


Employment-based green card changes


The proposal would have made several key reforms to employment-based green card filing including the following:


  1. Unused employment-based green cards would be recaptured from prior fiscal years with a maximum of 90,000 issued in any year. There are currently about 90,000 visas that could be reclaimed. The 50,000 green cards reserved for Schedule A occupations (mainly nurses) earlier this year would remain untouched.
  2. The plan calls for the removal of spouses and children from the counting of employment-based green cards. About 2.5 green cards are issued for family members for every principal applicant claiming an employment-based green card. This is currently the case for non-immigrant visa categories with caps.
  1. Employment-based green card applicants would be eligible to file for adjustment of status even if a visa is not currently available
  2. A fee of $500 would be imposed on most employment-based green card categories. An estimated $150 would be raised through such a fee.


L-1 visa reform


The House and Senate each approved provisions to tax L-1s between $750 and $1500.


The House is not expected to include these provisions in its version of the budget bill.


Groups that pushed for the legislation vow to bring the measure up again early in the new calendar year when Congress returns from its Christmas recess.

About The Author

Gregory Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.