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The New “W Visa”

April 1, 2013

Immigration law contains an alphabet soup of different visa categories, and based on recent reports, a new “W visa” may be added to the list.

This visa would become available in 2015 for business seeking lower-skilled foreign national workers, with 20,000 visas available in the first year and the number to increase every subsequent year until the fifth year, when the number would rise or fall based upon recommendations from a newly-created government immigration bureau. Wage protections would also exist in this visa category, as they currently exist in other visa categories, with employers required to pay the higher of the employer’s actual wage or the prevailing wage for the position.

Agreement between business and labor organizations on the issue of a visa category for lower-skilled workers is highly significant for comprehensive immigration reform. As reported by USA Today:

“This issue has always been the deal breaker on immigration reform, but not this time,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who has been involved in the current immigration deal and several failed efforts in the past.

The agreement was reached on Friday night between Thomas Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Richard Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., and brokered by Senator Schumer. On the Sunday talk shows, however, other members of the Senate’s Gang of Eight, including Senator Marco Rubio (Rep. FL), tempered excitement about the deal with clarification that the final details and the final draft bill had yet to be reviewed by the legislators.

The Washington Post offered additional details of the draft bill.

Separately, the new immigration bill also is expected to offer many more visas for high-tech workers, new visas for agriculture workers, and provisions allowing some agriculture workers already in the U.S. a speedier path to citizenship than that provided to other illegal immigrants, in an effort to create a stable agricultural workforce.

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