A House-Senate compromise last night on immigration would increase substantially the number of persons allowed to enter the country. The measure would permit 700,000 visas to be issued annually for the first three years, then lower the cap to 675,000 annually. The current figure is about 540,000 annually.
Visas granted to persons on the basis of their job skills or other talents would more than double, from 54,000 to 140,000 annually.
While some details of the measure must still be worked out, congressional staffers said they were confident that a conference bill would be passed and move to the House and Senate floors early next week.
Much of the controversy in reaching a compromise has centered on how to count visas granted to the family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) had threatened to filibuster a bill that did not subtract visas for immediate family members from a pool of other "family preference" visas.
The compromise would subtract those visas from a cap of 260,000 "family preference" visas, until the remaining pool reached 226,000. Beyond that, visas for immediate family members would not be counted against the cap. For the first three years, 55,000 visas annually would be available to family members of newly legalized immigrants, and those would not be counted against the overall cap of 700,000.