On May 23, 2023, U.S. Representatives Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL-27) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16), along with 6 other initial cosponsors introduced a comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform bill, called the Dignity for Immigrants while Guarding Our Nation to Ignite and Deliver the American Dream Act of 2023 (Dignity Act) (H.R. 3599). 

The introduction of the bill is a good step towards creating a visa and immigration process that reflects our values as a welcoming and inclusive nation, and that helps to attract and retain international students and others who meet the U.S. need for talented people to remain innovative and competitive.

The Dignity Act includes the following key international provisions:

  • Expands dual intent for international student (F) visa applicants. The bill removes the requirement that F visa applicants prove they have no intent to remain permanently in the United States after completing their studies. (Sec. 51401)
  • Adds a new employment-based nonimmigrant status option for STEM, healthcare, and medical professional PhD graduates. Adds international students who have doctoral degrees at a U.S. higher education institution in the field of science, engineering, mathematics, technology, healthcare, or medical profession to those eligible to receive an O status as "individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement". (Sec. 51312)
  • Makes more employment-based green cards available. No longer counting spouses and children against the employment-based green card cap will free up more than half the annual allocation.
  • Expands FICA tax to all international students. Under current law, FICA tax is not required for international students until they have been in the United States for 5 years. Requiring employers to pay FICA taxes for all international students removes the accusation that employers get a discount for hiring international students. (Sec. 51311)
  • Creates an Immigration Agency Coordinator to oversee the immigration functions at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Labor and Department of State. The coordinator is to provide recommendations to harmonize the work of the agencies and the sharing of information among agencies. (Sec. 51501)

The comprehensiveness of the bill means it includes provisions that go far beyond international education. A more complete summary of the bill is available on the National Immigration Forum. Among other provisions, the bill creates a path to permanent legal status for immigrants without legal status, recreates the asylum process, and requires operational control of the U.S. border with Mexico. A companion bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate.