This post summarizes the major provisions of the legislative proposal known as “IDEA Act”, or H.R.2161 – Immigration Driving Entrepreneurship in America Act of 2011, as it is officially known. As stated in the bill itself, its purpose is “to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to promote innovation, investment, and research in the United States, and for other purposes.”
1 — Preferential Processing for “STEM”-graduates
Academics who hold degrees in the “STEM” fields will have some preferential processing parameters when applying for certain employment-related immigration benefits, including exemption from numerical caps and simplifying other visa processing hurdles.
2 — Incentivizing Job-Creation and Entrepreneurship
This builds on the principles and spirit set forth when the original EB-5 Greencard category was created. A new category of “EB-6″ entrepreneur Greencard will be created, not subject to numerical limits.
3 — Simplifying the Burdensome Labor Certification Process
Shorten processing and turn-around times by the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Offer optional fee-based expedited processing. Enhance communication between Employers and DOL during the “PERM” process. Streamlined processing for established employers who file PERM’s frequently.
4 — Modifications to Prevailing Wage System and H-1B to protect U.S. workforce
Measures will be implemented to strengthen the recruitment processes, prevailing wage determinations will be adjusted to better reflect actual market wages, employers will be “incentivized” to retain or recruit U.S. workers, and also for paying above-average wages. Additional safeguards will be put in place to protect workers from potentially abusive or retaliatory conduct by employers. Spouses of H-1B workers are to be employment-authorized.
5 — Modifications to the L-1 category to protect U.S. workforce
Modifications will be made to the existing L-1B “specialized knowledge worker” classification to now required prevailing wage determinations (under certain circumstances). Exceptions would apply in some instances where the L-1B worker is kept on foreign payroll. DOL will be provided with enforcement mechanisms, equal to those currently available in the H-1B classification.
6 — Existing EB-5 Employment Creation Greencard to undergo some modifications
Aims to set aside half of the annual allotment of EB-5’s for those specifically to be used by Regional Center projects. USCIS will revise its current methods of calculating direct and indirect job creation. A major improvement to the current EB-5 program would be the desired authorization of 2-years of added time on the Conditional Residency status if not all conditions could be met within the first two years, if unexpected problems or delays occur. Another welcome change would be the allowance of “concurrent” filings of I-526 and I-485 in the EB-5 and new EB-6 programs, as well as an optional “Premium Processing” to adjudicate petitions within 60 days.