SKIL Bill: Good News for US Businesses?
By James Root
Los Angeles, CA
“SKIL Bill”, short for “Securing
Knowledge Innovation and Leadership Act of 2006”,
is targeted at increasing legal immigration of scientific,
technology, engineering, and mathematics workers
into the United States by increasing the quotas
on the H-1B visa, eliminating green card caps for
certain advanced degree holders, and streamlining
the processing of employment-based green cards.
Here’s a summary of changes in the SKIL bill:
H-1B Visa: The bill increases the annual cap of
65,000 immigrants to 115,000, automatically increasing
the cap by 20 percent each year the limit is reached.
It also creates a new exemption to the cap for anyone
who has an advanced degree in science, technology,
engineering, or math from a foreign university.
Green Card Caps: Sponsored by their employers, workers
who earned advanced degrees from accredited US universities
will be exempt from the numerical limit.
Streamlining Green Card Processing: The bill establishes
a pre-certification procedure that is designed to
eliminate duplicate documentation of the employer
that is common to multiple petitions. It also provides
employers with an option to expedited processing
of such visa petitions.
As of November 2006, the SKIL Bill exists as standalone
legislation in both the House and Senate. It is
also embedded in the Senate Comprehensive immigration
For the SKIL bill to become law, one of the following
two events must occur, along with a signature from
1. The House would have to pass the Senate's Comprehensive
2. Both the House version and the Senate version
would have to be approved by Congress.
Perspectives on the SKIL bill:
Proponents of the claim that the most intelligent
workers in the world come here to be educated and
then end up taking their knowledge and skills with
them back to their home countries, support the bill.
They claim that there are not enough skilled workers
to fulfill requirements and that a severe shortage
looms, threatening US leadership in technical fields.
Industry claims their gain is access to a larger
Opponents claim that industry is primarily motivated
by desire for lower wages. They make the point that
if there were a shortage of skilled workers, real
wages would be up and unemployment would be down,
neither of which is the case. Opponents also claim
that this bill would cause an unprecedented flooding
of the labor market, as skilled Americans and residents
would be displaced in their jobs by immigrants from
the developing world who are willing to work at
below-market wages in return for permanent residence
or US citizenship.
A more detailed account
of the SKIL Bill sections follows:
Access to High Skilled
Section 101. H-1B Visa Holders
Exempts professionals who have earned advanced degrees
(e.g. Master’s degree or higher) from accredited
United States universities and those who have been
awarded a medical specialty certification based
on post-doctoral training and experience in the
United States from the annual H-1B cap.
Section 102. Market-Based
Raises the H-1B (specialty occupation) cap from
65,000 to 115,000 and creates a flexible system
that adjusts with the market.
Workers Educated in the United States
Section 201. United States Educated Immigrants.
Exempts US-educated professionals with advanced
degrees and those who have been awarded a medical
specialty certification based on post-doctoral training
and experience in the United States from the annual
green card (i.e. immigrant visa) cap. Exempts from
the green card cap workers of extraordinary ability
(e.g. Nobel Prize winners), and outstanding researchers
and professors. Exempts professionals who have earned
advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering
or math, and who worked in the US for at least three
years in a related field, from the immigrant visa
cap. Exempts spouse and minor children of professionals
from the employment-based cap.
Section 202. Immigrant
Visa Backlog Reduction.
Raises the immigrant visa (i.e. green card) cap
from 140,000 to 290,000 and allows unused visas
to fall forward annually. Retains current green
card allocation so that majority of visas (57%)
are reserved for highly-educated/skilled workers.
Section 203. Student
Many employers seek to hire US educated students
full-time upon graduation, and this change would
enable the employer to start the green card process
while the foreign worker is on a student visa (F-1)
during Optional Practical Training (OPT). Codifies
post-graduate OPT, which will allow US educated
foreign students to work in their field for up to
two years after graduation.
Section 204. L-1 Visa
Holders Subject to Visa Backlog.
Allows an extension of an L-1 (intra-company transfer)
visa beyond the fifth or seventh year if the individual
has a green card application pending and is simply
caught in the green card backlog. This extension
is currently allowed for H-1B (specialty occupation)
visa holders, but not for L-1 visa holders.
Section 205. Retaining
Workers Subject to Green Card Backlog.
Allows foreign workers who have started the green
card process, but who are subject to green card
backlogs, to pay a $500.00 supplemental fee to file
an application to adjust status. This change would
enable foreign workers to remain in the US until
the green card becomes available.
Through Immigration Reform
Section 301. Streamlining the Adjudication Process
for Established Employers.
Requires the creation of a pre-certification program
that streamlines the adjudication process, and reduces
paperwork burdens, for employers with a track record
of compliance and who file multiple applications.
Section 302. Providing
Premium Processing of Employment-Based Visa Petitions.
Requires USCIS to allow employers to file a “premium
processing” fee for expedited adjudication
of employment-based immigrant petitions, as well
as for administrative appeals of any decision on
an employment-based immigrant petition.
Section 303. Eliminating
Procedural Delays in Labor Certification Process.
Requires the Department of Labor to process all
applications filed prior to the electronic PERM
system within six months of enactment. Clarifies
the Department of Labor’s process in providing
prevailing wage determinations and requires the
Department of Labor to establish a website to post
open job orders.
Section 401. Completion of Background and Security
Requires that no immigration application may be
approved until the appropriate background and security
checks are completed and any allegations of fraud
have been resolved.
Section 402. Visa
Allows temporary workers who have not violated their
status to renew their visa from within the United
Clarifies that if any part of this act is determined
to be invalid it will have no effect on the remainder
of the provisions.
(Root Law Group is an exclusive Immigration Law
firm that specializes in assisting non United States
citizens in obtaining lawful status in the United
States. Phone: 1- (888)-Root-Law (766-8529). www.RootLaw.com)