Comprehensive Immigration Reform: July 2013 Update

As reported in the June 27, 2013 MurthyDotCom NewsFlash! U.S. Senate Passes CIR Bill; Still Faces Major Obstacles in House, the U.S. Senate passed S.744, a comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill entitled, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. That bill cannot become law, however, unless the U.S. House of Representatives passes a bill with identical provisions. Key house leaders have publicly stated that they will not consider or vote on the Senate version of the CIR bill, preferring instead to work on piecemeal legislation that targets specific immigration issues.

Key Measures of Senate Bill

The final version of S.744 contains a litany of provisions that would fundamentally change U.S. immigration law, including:

  • Implementing what is being billed as a “border surge,” which would direct substantial resources to prevent unauthorized entry to the United States from the southern border
  • Adding new / increased fees related to sponsoring foreign workers, both for nonimmigrant and immigrant cases
  • Increasing civil penalties for employer violations related to hiring undocumented workers, and for failing to comply with document verification rules
  • Mandating that all U.S. businesses participate in E-Verify within five years
  • Providing paths for undocumented foreign nationals to obtain work and travel authorization, and possibly permanent residence in the future
  • Eliminating the per-country limits for employment-based green cards
  • Exempting many foreign nationals from the numerical limitations on employment-based (EB) green card categories, including the EB1 category, doctorate degree holders, and many applicants with advanced STEM degrees obtained from U.S. schools
  • Increasing the H1B cap to 115,000 per year, with the possibility of further expanding it to up to 180,000 (The master’s cap would be increased to 25,000, but would be limited to STEM occupations.)
  • Prohibiting H1B dependent employers from contracting for services or placement of H1B workers (This provision is clearly targeting certain IT consulting firms. It would prevent many of these companies from placing their H1B employees offsite, making it virtually impossible for such companies to operate in the United States. Employers that sponsor the vast majority of their H1B and L-1 workers for green cards would be able avoid being labeled H1B dependent, and, thus could continue placing workers offsite. Some additional information about this troubling measure is available in the MurthyBlog entry, Murthy at U.S.-India Business Summit.)
  • Requiring employers to undergo recruitment efforts of U.S. workers prior to hiring H1B workers
  • Providing H1B workers with a 60-day grace period after termination of employment, during which time they would be considered in lawful status
  • Granting work authorization to H-4 spouses
  • Creating new nonimmigrant and immigrant categories for foreign investors and entrepreneurs
  • Eliminating the family-based, fourth preference (FB4) category, as well as the Diversity Lottery
  • Creating a merit-based green card system

House of Representatives Piecemeal Approach to Immigration

Unlike the Senate, which created a single, comprehensive bill addressing a range of immigration matters, the House is working on various narrower bills. Each of these more limited bills targets a specific area within immigration law. The immigration bills in the House include:

  • The Legal Workforce Act, which would require all employers to begin using E-Verify within two years
  • The Border Security Results Act of 2013, which focuses on border security
  • The SAFE Act, which would ramp up immigration enforcement efforts, including making unlawful presence a criminal offense
  • The Agricultural Guest Worker Act, which would create a new program for agricultural workers
  • The SKILLS Visa Act, which would increase availability of both nonimmigrant and immigrant visas for high-skilled workers, but eliminate the FB4 category and the Diversity Lottery

None of the House bills tackle the thorny issue of what to do about the undocumented foreign nationals who are currently in the United States (although members in the House are purportedly drafting a bill that would provide some form of relief for undocumented children.) The proposed bills in the House also leave unchanged the number of immigrant visas issued annually. This means that, under the House bills, the lengthy backlogs in many immigrant visa categories would likely continue.


The Murthy Law Firm will continue to closely track these immigration reform efforts, and post news, analyses, and updates. CIR – What You Should Know is a hub on our website, dedicated to the issues and concerns surrounding the ongoing immigration reform efforts.  Sheela Murthy recently was invited to speak at the U.S.-India Business Council’s (USIBC) annual Leadership Summit on July 11, 2013 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to provide an overview of CIR for the business and industry leaders in attendance. Attorneys at the Murthy Law Firm remain at the forefront, monitoring and analyzing proposals before Congress, all of which can be found on the CIR page on MurthyDotCom.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.