The Gang of Eight, that bipartisan group of senators we’ve been hearing so much about, filed 844 pages worth of immigration overhaul late Wednesday night, the first shot at reform since 2007. With the first Senate hearing scheduled for Friday, individual provisions were already being both praised and bashed by fellow senators, citizens, and interest groups. But we thought we’d focus on the parts that most closely affect the workforce, and let you decide for yourselves. (Though if you want to hear some opinions from some fellow staffers, read this article.)

Path to Citizenship

  • Most of the 11 million illegal immigrants already here could apply for a green card (10 years from now) and then citizenship (13 years from now)
  • Immigrants applying for citizenship must pay back taxes and a $1,000 fine
  • They must also learn English, be employed, and pass a background check
  • Only those who arrived before Jan. 1, 2012 will be eligible
  • Younger immigrants can get green cards and citizenship within 5 years

H-1B (“high-skilled”) visa

  • For high skilled professionals such as engineers and computer programmers, the limit on visas would swell to 110,000 (versus the previous cap of 65,000) with the potential to reach 180,000 in a few years
  • Those who employ large numbers of H-1B visa-holding employees will incur fees and would have to shell out higher salaries

Guest worker “W-visa” program

  • In 2015, the U.S. will offer a brand new visa for lower-skilled workers, allowing 20,000 immigrants to enter and work in these types of positions
  • This W-visa cap would increase to 75,000 in 2019. (A special bureau would recommend guest worker caps after that.)
  • Construction companies would be limited to 15,000 visas annually

E-Verify

  • Companies will need to introduce this system within 5 years, if they aren’t already using it to track the legality of their employees

Of course, the bill contains lots of other measures (and sets aside a hefty $3 billion) that would help keep illegal immigrants out to begin with, adding things like surveillance drones, more fencing, and tracking systems at ports.

Tags: News, E-Verify, Immigration, Green card, Gang of Eight, H-1B, W-visa