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Senator Specter Proposes Draft Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation

Feb 23, 2006

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter introduced an immigration bill on February 23, 2006 regarding the treatment of undocumented immigrants, future foreign workers, and family-sponsored immigrants. The bill would allow immigrants who are present in the US unlawfully and working as of January 2004 to apply for a temporary visa that would allow them to work legally and travel internationally. Under this proposed bill, qualified immigrants would have to admit to being in the US unlawfully, show proof of employment, pay back taxes, waive the right to administrative or judicial review of a denial or to contest a future deportation, prove admissibly, undergo a medical exam, and submit an application within one year of date of enactment. This would be a temporary visa and work authorization for the primary person but family members could joint the applicant but would not be able to work. This proposal does not create a path to getting the greencard.

The bill would also increase the cap in the family-based immigrant visa quota system by not counting the immediate relatives of US citizens against the annual worldwide ceiling of 480,000. Therefore, the family-based preference quota will increase from the present 226,000 to 480,000. Unused visas could be recaptured if they go unused because of processing delays. The employment-based quota will increase to 290,000 from 140,000. Again, the unused visas due to processing delays could be recaptured and per-country limits would be expanded. Unskilled workers in the “other worker” category of the employment third preference would be given 30% (87,000) of the employment-based visa total.

Senator Specter’s bill also proposes to provide additional benefits to nonimmigrants either pursuing advance degrees or who have obtained advance degrees. For instance, students pursuing advanced degrees would he able to seek F-4 visa classification and could enter as intending immigrants to pursue a graduate program in the US. Such students, upon completing their advance degrees and attaining full-time employment, could apply for their permanent residence upon a payment of $1000.

In addition, the bill also seeks to increase the number of H-1B visas to 115,000. It also contains an escalator mechanisms so that the number available annually will fluctuate in response to the demand for the visas.

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