House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today joined Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in introducing a bill to spur job creation, economic growth, and American competitiveness by increasing and improving high-skilled immigration programs. The Supplying Knowledge Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act (H.R. 2131), also known as the SKILLS Visa Act, provides American employers with access to the world's best talent by allocating green cards to foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, increasing H-1B visas, and repealing the employment-based per-country cap. The bill facilitates job creation by establishing a new entrepreneur visa program and strengthening the investor visa program. It also eliminates nonsensical immigration programs, such as the diversity visa lottery, and contains a market-based approach to protect American workers.
The SKILLS Visa Act is one of several bills the House Judiciary Committee has introduced to help address various issues within our immigration system. Chairmen Goodlatte and Issa released the statements below on the bill's introduction.
Chairman Goodlatte: "In today's global economy, our nation needs access to the world's best talent to maintain our competitive edge. Although high-skilled immigrants are often in demand by American employers, many of them end up on the green card waiting list for years. Consequently, many of these foreign workers and students go back to their home countries and work for one of our global competitors.
"The SKILLS Visa Act provides a solution to this problem by eliminating immigration programs that do not meet the needs of our nation and reallocating those visas to high-skilled immigrants who will help make us more competitive in the today's economy. By increasing high-skilled immigration and creating a new entrepreneur visa program, the SKILLS Visa Act will boost economic growth and create new jobs here at home."
Chairman Issa: "This bill is an investment in our Nation's future. The SKILLS Visa Act will allow the best and brightest foreign graduates of American universities to stay in the U.S., encourage entrepreneurs and investors to grow our economy, and create American jobs. The United States is a country of innovation and opportunity that has long been a bastion for the world's best and brightest.
"In addition to keeping the world's best and brightest here in the U.S., the SKILLS Visas Act will modernize immigration laws to help our growing technology sector. By bringing highly skilled workers into our economy, we will help ensure our Nation's future as a leader of growth and innovation."
The bill is supported by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Compete America, inSPIRE STEM USA, the Internet Association, and the Information Technology Industry Council.
Original cosponsors of the bill include Reps. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), John Campbell (R-Calif.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), George Holding (R-N.C.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Lee Terry (R-Neb.), and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.).
Key Components of the SKILLS Visa Act:
Increases Green Cards for STEM Grads: The SKILLS Visa Act allocates up to 55,000 green cards a year for employers to petition for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in STEM fields.
Supports STEM Education in U.S.: The bill raises the current fee on H-1B visas and institutes a fee on employers petitioning for green cards for workers that will go towards strengthening STEM education in the U.S.
Increases and Strengthens H-1B Visa Program: The SKILLS Visa Act increases the H-1B visa cap for high-skilled workers to 155,000 and increases the special pool of visas for foreign graduates of U.S. universities to 40,000. The bill contains enhanced anti-fraud provisions and allows H-1B spouses to work.
Market-Based Approach to Protect American Workers: The bill improves the prevailing wage calculation to better protect American workers and extends the prevailing wage protection to similar visa programs.
Provides Entrepreneur Visas: The bill allocates up to 10,000 green cards a year for alien entrepreneurs who can attract investment from venture-capital firms to establish businesses that will create five jobs or have already created five jobs over 10 years through the E-2 treaty investor program.
Strengthens Investor Visa Program: The bill strengthens the investor visa green card program by making the regional center pilot project permanent, indexing investment requirements for inflation, and adding anti-fraud protections.
Eliminates Arbitrary Caps: The bill eliminates the employment-based green card per-country cap, allowing American employers to have access to the best talent.
Keeps Families Together: The bill allocates an additional 25,000 green cards a year to the spouses and minor children of permanent residents. It also raises the family-sponsored per-country cap.
Makes Immigration System Smarter: The bill repeals the diversity lottery green card program and the siblings of U.S. citizens green card program.