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Washington • Rep. Jason Chaffetz is again trying to ditch a per-country cap on visas for high-skilled immigrants, a move the Utah Republican says he's more optimistic can happen now that Washington is focused on common-ground immigration reforms.
The House overwhelmingly passed Chaffetz's measure in 2011, but the Senate never took up the legislation.
The bill doesn't increase the number of visas available but does away with statutory limits tied to certain countries. In essence, Chaffetz wants U.S. companies to be able to recruit international talent from nations that often run out of visas.
"I think this is good public policy," Chaffetz said Wednesday as he introduced he bill. "It pushes the ball in the right direction. It'd make a real difference for a lot of people."
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced the same legislation in the Senate on Wednesday as well as another bill aimed at allowing dairy workers, sheepherders and goat herders to apply for year-round visas. Temporary farm workers can now only obtain seasonal visas.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has introduced legislation that deals with the same issue as the Lee and Chaffetz bills but with a different approach.
Hatch's bill, backed by two Democrats and a fellow Republican, would give legal status to foreign-born students who graduate with a doctorate or master's degree in a science, math, engineering or technology field.
The measure would also increase the number of highly skilled immigrant visas by at least 50,000 each year to a total of 115,000.
If there's economic need, the total could jump to 300,000.