Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the I-Squared Act of 2015 to reform the high-skilled immigration system. Most of this bill attempts to improve the H-1B visa for temporary highly skilled workers by making the workers more legally mobile and increasing the quotas for that visa. The H-1B is a dual-intent guest worker visa program, meaning that workers on the H-1B can pursue a green card while working on a temporary visa. The H-1B is a pipeline to the employment-based (EB) green card.
Most commentators will focus on the important and positive proposed reforms to the H-1B visa. In contrast, I will focus on the reforms to the employment-based (EB) green card program. I-Squared would exempt several categories of workers and their family members from the numerical quota imposed on EB green cards. Although I-Squared does not increase the numerical quota, effectively it more than doubles the quota through exemptions. As I detail here, this is a very positive move for U.S. economic growth. Below I detail many of the exemptions in I-Squared and then make some suggestions for further streamlining and liberalizing the system.
The most important exemption in I-Squared for EB green cards is for the spouses and children of workers. Under current statutory interpretation, the family members of these workers count against the quota. Fifty-five percent of those who received the EB green card were the spouses and children of workers in 2013. Allowing those spots to instead be filled with workers would more than double their number going forward.
2013 Employment Based Green Cards: Families and Workers
Source: 2013 Yearbook on Immigration Statistics, Table 7.