The House Judiciary Committee today approved the Supplying Knowledge Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act (H.R. 2131), also known as the SKILLS Visa Act,in a vote of 20-14. This bill 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. The bill accomplishes these changes to our immigration system by replacing nonessential immigration programs with those that better meet our country's interests. The bill also contains a market-based approach to protect American workers.
The SKILLS Visa Act is one of several bills the House Judiciary Committee has introduced and approved to help address various issues within our immigration system. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chief sponsor of the SKILLS Visa Act, praised today's Committee vote.
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. In an age when we are competing with other countries to produce the best products and ideas in the global marketplace, it makes no sense that we select only 12% of immigrants based on the skills and education they bring to the U.S. If we want to keep up, we need to make changes to our immigration system.
"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 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."
Congressman Issa: "The Committee's approval of the SKILLS Visa Act furthers an effort to ensure that immigration reform benefits our economy and the creation of American jobs. America is already home to many of the world's best and brightest individuals. The SKILLS Visa Act is a win-win for the United States. It allows immigrants who graduate from American universities with advanced degrees in STEM fields to remain here and use their talents to make this country a better place. It also helps to provide workers in many highly-skilled technical areas where our nation is currently experiencing shortages. This bill will help to grow our economy and help us to retain the best and brightest individuals. "
The bill is supported by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Compete America, inSPIRE STEM USA, the Internet Association, and the Information Technology Industry Council.
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.
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 at least 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, which is a magnet for fraud and poses a national security threat.
More information about the bill can be found by visiting http://issa.house.gov/skills/