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Column - High Skilled Immigration Reform Needed Now


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By Sen. Orrin Hatch

Each year, thousands of international students study and are trained in their respective fields in U.S. schools and universities, many right here in Utah. Many prove themselves among the best and brightest in their programs, showing creativity, innovation and talent, and have hopes of entering our nation's workforce following graduation, which would help boost our economy. Subsequently, our country also has a growing demand for high-skilled workers, and many of these international students have the training, skills and drive to fill gaps in highly specialized areas of employment, especially the high-tech industry.

Current U.S. Immigration law limits the quantity of employment-based nonimmigrant (H-1B) visas to 65,000 total foreigners with bachelor's degrees, with an additional 20,000 visas for foreign nationals with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. However, as the economy continues to improve and more companies are seeking skilled employees to expand their businesses, the national H-1B visa cap has already been reached for this year.

What does that mean? It means that U.S. companies struggling to find candidates with the talent and skills necessary to support their businesses, and it also sends American-trained talent and innovation to other countries and nations- our business competitors- across the globe.

This is why I introduced the Immigration Innovation (I2) Act earlier this year. This bipartisan legislation will bring long-overdue reforms to the nation's immigration laws for high-skilled workers. The bill focuses on three main areas vital to ensuring the United States can maintain its competitiveness in the global economy:

1) The quantity of employment-based nonimmigrant visas (H-1B visas), allowing for their growth depending on the demands of the economy while making reforms to protect workers.

2) Increased access to green cards for high-skilled workers by expanding the exemptions and eliminating the annual per country limits for employment based green cards.

3) Reforming the fees on H-1B and green cards so those fees can be used to promote American worker retraining and education.

Since the bill's introduction in January, it has received wide-spread bipartisan support from many of my colleagues in the Senate, as well as strong support from many leaders in the high-tech industry, including Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, HP, and others. They understand that a more high-skilled workforce means they can create more jobs and help expand their business, which in turn means a strong American economy.

Reforming the high-skilled component of our immigration system is necessary in order for the United States to keep up with our foreign competitors in a global economy. Reform in this area would boost our economy and create good-paying jobs here in the U.S. The Immigration Innovation Act takes a number of needed steps to accomplish this goal.

- Sen. Orrin G. Hatch

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