‘W-Visa’ Would Enable Lower-Skilled Foreigners to Legally Work in U.S.

BY Cassie M. Chew  April 24, 2013 at 3:52 PM EST


Doris Meissner, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, says a proposed W-Visa category would for the first time allow low-skilled foreigners to legally work in the U.S.

The United States has long welcomed foreigners with advanced degrees to work in this country. A proposal in the immigration reform bill released April 18 would for the first time, allow foreigners with lower job skills to legally work here.

Under the “W-Visa” program, which would start in April 2015, foreigners with lesser skills would be able to apply for positions in the country. The program would be based upon a system of registered employers who, after applying and being accepted, are allowed to hire a certain number of W-Visa category individuals each year.

Employers must first advertise the position for 30 days on a Secretary of Labor website before it becomes a position capable of being filled by a W-Visa holder. Employers couldn’t advertise positions that require a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The visa would last three years and workers could renew it for additional three-year periods. Visa holders couldn’t be unemployed for more than 60 consecutive days. They would be able to bring a spouse and minor children, who also would receive authorization to work in the U.S.

“They are addressing something that has never been available to us before in the immigration system,” Doris Meissner, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute told NewsHour’s Kwame Holman in a recent interview. Between 1993 and 2000, Meissner served as the commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

“We’ve always had visas available for seasonal jobs that are short term. … But more and more our economy, being a service economy, has year-round jobs that are relatively permanent where there is sometimes a need for foreign-born workers.”

The number of visas to be offered would be capped at 20,000 the first year and grow to 75,000 by the fourth year. In the years thereafter, the annual cap would be based on a formula that would consider the number of new job openings, the number of unemployed U.S. workers as well as the demand for W-Visa workers.

This temporary worker plan was brokered as a compromise between lawmakers, industry and labor unions.

“The new W-Visa classification features a streamlined process for employers to register job openings that can be filled by temporary foreign workers, while still ensuring that American workers get first crack at every job and that wages paid are the greater of actual or prevailing wage levels,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in an April 3 statement.


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