At the same time the border security talks appeared all but settled, officials disclosed changes on other thorny issues.
Under one of them, sought by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, immigrants would not be able to claim credit for Social Security taxes they paid while working without lawful status. Credits are used to determine the amount in benefits a worker receives from the program after retirement.
Also under discussion was a second proposal by Hatch to prohibit the federal government or the states from making immigrants eligible for welfare until they had held legal status for five years.
Officials also said the White House had taken a role in drafting a change to clarify when immigrants would become eligible for federal subsidies under the health care law that is now taking full effect. Details were not immediately available.
Democrats and Republicans alike said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, was pressing for a toughening of the E-Verify program, and that a small group of Southern Republicans wanted changes made to a new program that would permit farm workers from other countries to work in the United States temporarily. The outcomes of those talks — and the votes of several Republicans as well —were unclear.
In addition to border security issues, the legislation would increase the number of visas going to high-skilled workers whose labor is sought by U.S. technology firms, create a new program for lower-skilled immigrants and allow farm laborers to come to the country temporarily to perform seasonal jobs.
Separately, younger immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children would be eligible for legal status more quickly than others.
For foreigners looking to move to the United States legally, a decades-old system that emphasizes family ties would be replaced by one that gives more weight to education, work skills, English proficiency and relative youth.