Republican House members introduced legislation that would boost the number of H-1B visas and green cards for high-skilled foreign workers and graduates of U.S. universities in scientific and technical fields.
The Supplying Knowledge Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act (SKILLS Visa Act) was introduced May 23, 2013, by Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Darrell Issa, R-Calif. It is the fourth immigration-reform-related bill to be introduced in the House of Representatives since Goodlatte, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, announced that he would be taking a piecemeal approach to reforming the nation’s immigration laws.
The other House measures address border security, the E-Verify employment verification system and agricultural workers.
The bill would significantly increase the annual H-1B visa cap for temporary high-skilled workers, from 65,000 to 155,000; provide up to 55,000 green cards for foreign graduates of U.S. doctoral programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields; create a new visa for entrepreneurs; eliminate the per-country cap for green cards and the diversity visa program; and raise the fees that employers would have to pay for green card and H-1B applications to fund STEM training and education in the U.S.
Employers would need to attest that no American worker was qualified for the job before petitioning for the green card recipient. Green cards would be made available to master’s degree graduates of STEM programs if they weren’t claimed by graduates of doctoral programs.
The American Council on International Personnel (ACIP) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) voiced their support for the legislation.
“The SKILLS Visa Act moves us in the right direction, and we look forward to working with policymakers on the bill in the coming weeks and months,” said ACIP Executive Director Lynn Shotwell. The strategic affiliates specifically praised the inclusion of a Trusted Employer program to increase processing efficiency in the immigration system.
“With over 11 million people expected to be legalized, millions more who will be eligible for new visa classifications, and significant new enforcement requirements placed on the agencies, the government is going to have to work smarter and more efficiently if it wants to avoid a backlog of paperwork and processing that could cripple the system,” said Shotwell.
“A Trusted Employer program to prequalify U.S. employers that have a proven track record of compliance with federal immigration laws and regulations will streamline the process and save resources for both the government and employers,” she added.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him at @SHRMRoy
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