Skilled worker immigration reform should be top priority in House

You would probably call it dysfunctional, short-sighted, or, worst of all, uncompetitive.  Yet all of these approaches actually describe current federal immigration policies for skilled workers.  This is why our Chambers have joined with regional Chambers of Commerce from across the country – from Boston to Phoenix, Tampa to Tulsa, and Minneapolis to San Antonio – to form a national coalition working to enact skilled worker immigration reforms in this session of Congress.

U.S. immigration policies have failed to keep pace in an increasingly competitive and globalized 21st-century economy.  Outdated policy restrictions have shut out tens of thousands of skilled foreign workers, international students who graduate from our universities with degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) fields, and overseas entrepreneurs.

And where are these talented individuals going?  To our competitor nations – who have capitalized on shortfalls in the U.S. system by actively and aggressively revising their immigration policies to welcome many of the world’s best and brightest to their shores.

Federal lawmakers have an historic opportunity to reverse this international “brain drain” and send a strong message to skilled workers across the globe that the United States is open for business.

ADVERTISEMENT
The United States Senate recently passed a series of important skilled worker immigration reforms as part of its comprehensive immigration bill.  The bill garnered strong, bipartisan support – raising both hopes and the stakes for similar reform provisions to be taken up in the House.  As Congress returns from the July 4 recess, businesses from across the country are urging House members to make skilled worker immigration reform a key component in its immigration reform efforts, as well.

Business for Skilled Worker Immigration, a coalition of 50 leading Chambers of Commerce from across the U.S., is working to expand the number of skilled workers and innovators in our country by advancing three key reform proposals:

1)      Increase the availability of temporary, skilled worker (H-1B) visas by substantially raising the annual cap and enabling additional market-based adjustments – creating a program that is more responsive to market demand while avoiding overly burdensome hiring and recruitment requirements.

2)      Exempt all advanced STEM degree holders from U.S. universities from the annual employment-based green card cap – retaining more of these highly sought-after graduates in the U.S. and placing them on a fast track to permanent residency.

3)      Create new INVEST visas and green cards for immigrant entrepreneurs who launch businesses in the U.S. and meet key job creation, revenue generation, and financing goals – addressing a significant policy gap and fueling the nation’s engine of economic growth and innovation.

The Senate bill passed in June advances each of these priorities with strong backing from both Democrats and Republicans – now it’s time for the House to act.

On behalf of the tens of thousands of employers represented by our coalition members – from across every industry and company size – Business for Skilled Worker Immigration urges the House to pass these lasting and forward-looking skilled worker immigration reforms.  Enacting these key immigration reforms, coupled with an increased focus on domestic education priorities and skills training, will help ensure that the U.S. remains a global capital for talent for generations to come.

Guzzi is president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and Perez is president and CEO of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.