Greenberg Traurig, LLP  


Immigration News Flash

March 4, 2006

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006

As GT reported last week the review and mark up of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) started this week and will continue through March 17, 2006. This morning's session confirmed that efforts to allow undocumented workers a direct route to permanent residency will not win congressional support.

Some highlights of specific provisions that may be of interest are:

H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa Shortage

  • Increase in the number of H-1B visas available to 115,000.
  • Addition of a market-based escalator mechanism so that the cap on the number of visas available annually will fluctuate in response to the demand for such visas in the preceding fiscal year.
  • Exemption from numerical limitations of foreign nationals who have earned advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math.

Employment Based Backlog Reduction

  • Increase in the number of employment-based visas from 140,000 to 290,000.
  • Exemption from numerical limitations of spouses and children of employment-based immigrants.
  • Exemption from numerical limitations for foreign nationals with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math who have been working in a related field in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa during the three year period immediately preceding their application for an immigrant visa. Immediate relatives of family members would also be exempt.
  • Recapture of employment-based visas that go unused because of processing delays.
  • Increase of per-country ceilings for employment-based visas.

Student Visas

  • Extension of the F-1 optional practical training period after graduation to 24 months.
  • Creation of a new F-4 visa category for students pursuing an advanced degree in math, engineering, technology or physical sciences program.
  • F-4 visa-holders allowed to be intending immigrants if they plan to seek employment in the U.S. related to the field of study for their graduate program.
  • Eligibility of all F students for 20 hours per week during the academic term (40 hours per week during vacation periods and between terms) of off-campus employment unrelated to their field of study if they maintain good academic standing and the employer attests to the educational institution and the Department of Labor that it has spent at least 21 days recruiting U.S. citizens to fill the position and will pay the greater of the actual or prevailing wage.
  • Authorization for F-4 students to immediately adjust their status to permanent resident upon payment of a $1,000 fee after completing their advanced degree program.

At the same time the enforcement and employment eligibility review provisions of the Bill are burdensome and can be reviewed described in our our previous newsflash.

It is highly likely that the majority of these provisions will change in continuous sessions. GT is still hopeful that a compromise will be accepted in order to have some sort of Immigration reform in the near future.