WASHINGTON May 21 Senate negotiators have
reached a tentative deal with tech companies to ease
restrictions on hiring foreigners for high-skilled jobs as part
of a sweeping immigration bill, congressional and industry
sources said on Tuesday.
Judiciary Committee members have been in negotiations with
the companies and the AFL-CIO union over whether to lift
constraints on H-1B visas allowing American companies to hire
highly skilled foreign workers.
Under the deal struck between Democratic Senator Charles
Schumer of New York and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah,
the Senate would back a looser formula for determining the
annual number of H-1B visas issued.
But no increase could occur if the U.S. unemployment rate in
the particular profession was 4.5 percent or higher, or if the
jobless rate in that sector was greater than in the previous
Schumer also accepted one of Hatch's most contentious
proposals, strongly opposed by the AFL-CIO, that only requires
"H-1B dependent" companies to make an effort to hire Americans
for the jobs first.
The immigration bill currently requires all companies that
hire H-1B employees, not just those that are defined as
dependent on the high-skill visas, to initially recruit U.S.
Hatch has said he would seek additional changes during
debate in the full Senate. The bill is now before the Judiciary
Those are thought to have to do with whether illegal
immigrants who would be granted legal status could qualify for
government programs such as Social Security and tax credits for
children and families with low incomes.
The tentative deal needs approval from the Judiciary
Committee, and the entire immigration bill needs to pass the
Senate and House of Representatives before President Barack
Obama can sign it into law.