The discussion about raising the annual limit on the number of H1B visas can rest for a while, even as the legislation introduced in the US Senate this week, is the latest buzz. Yes we’re talking about the proposed W visa is being a visa that might finally solve some of the immigration related problem that the immigrants and US employers have been facing in the past years. In short this particular visa will allow foreigners to enter the United States temporarily, under job sections for which no US workers are available.
Over the last week, the bipartisan Senate “Gang of Eight” finally after tremendous consultations with the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO in negotiating with different interest groups, came to an agreement on a very important aspect based on a practical immigration solution that is claimed to look into the problems of all kind of workers, with special emphasis on non-seasonal low-skilled migrant workers and how they could work in the United States legally.

Let’s check out some of the highlights of the W visa:

– There will be at most 20,000 W visas in the first year, 35,000 in the second year, 55,000 in the third, and 75,000 in the fourth.

– Recipients of the W visa, will be allowed to petition for permanent status after they complete their term.

– A W visa holder will be allowed to switch jobs while in the United States.

– The actual number of W visas issued, will be finally determined by a new Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Conditions based on labor market conditions in the country.

– The visas will mostly be allocated in areas of occupations that face shortages as per the BILMC.

– There will be a permissible wages set for W visa holders so that there is no negative impact on U.S.-born workers in the same occupational category.

– The W-Visa is not a temporary visa

– Unlike other visa programs, this one will be data driven.

– W-Visa holders are to be covered by state and federal employment laws like other U.S. workers.

There are of course several guidelines to issuing the W visa. An employer who cannot find American workers for a position can register a job opening slot for a three-year period. During this period, they will be authorized to hire foreign workers for the slot. However no employer can register a job opening slot when unemployment in the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) for the primary job location for the worker is in excess of 8.5%.

An interesting approach to the W visa is the setting up of a new Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research which would operate within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The bureau is to have a politically appointed head, staffed by social scientists, professional economists and demographers. The bureau would also conduct research and prepare reports on immigration in the U.S. and make annual recommendations regarding the visa cap and employing of foreign workers under different situations.

Though the W-visa program might not be as big as of now and will probably accommodate or cater to a small section of the employers and job positions, its importance lies in the fact that it is an indicator to a workable architecture for a practical visa that will lead to more comprehensive immigration reforms. Hopefully this will be a beginning for the AFL-CIO’s campaign to build a better and more practical immigration system which caters to both the employers and workers.

Note that the W-visa has not become law yet and until it is further discussed and accepted and signed by the President it is still at a ‘proposition stage’. We advise people not to pay any fees or try to file for such a visa unless you talk to your attorney. You can reach our office at 510 742 5887 if you want more information.