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Senate Immigration Legislation Supports Our Innovation Economy

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Peter-Muller-photo-150x150.jpgLast night, a bipartisan group of eight United States Senators introduced legislation to reform our nation’s immigration laws. Since Intel conducts three quarters of its high-tech manufacturing and R&D here in the United States, immigration reform is a top policy priority. We welcome this legislation and the reforms it would make to the high-skilled visa system.

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 signals to the American technology companies that lawmakers understand the global competition we face for top talent and the current shortage of qualified U.S. workers.

This bill would make significant improvements to both the non-immigrant and immigrant sections of the law. It would increase the number of H-1B visas that are used to employ foreign-born workers on a temporary basis and adjust the future cap levels based on economic and market factors, eliminating the current arbitrary visa cap. The bill would also allow many spouses of H-1B holders to obtain work authorization, which can be tremendously important to the financial health of these families

The authors of the bill recognize that it is counterproductive to educate foreign born students at our U.S. universities and then send them home to build businesses, develop intellectual property and create jobs. They included an exemption of certain categories of people from the annual green card limit, including advanced-degree graduates in the STEM fields from U.S. universities. Not only will these individuals not count against the green card limit but the bill will allow them to skip the H-1B process and apply directly for a green card when they receive a job offer. This will allow employees to compete on a level playing field, without job restrictions and uncertainly about their future. It also increases the chance that these individuals will contribute to American innovation.

In addition, this bill would “recapture” employment-based visas that went unused over the last decade for bureaucratic reasons and distribute those to people are who are currently waiting in line for a green card. This will significantly reduce the backlog of people who have been waiting years to become permanent residents.

Another important provision is the removal of the “per country cap,” creating more fair, first come first served process. The cap has distorted the visa system for years and created unreasonably long green card wait lines for applicants depending on the country in which they were born.

We have long held that improving the pipeline of high skilled, technical workers in the U.S. requires a short and a long term approach. The proposed visa reform will make a great impact now and the inclusion of a mechanism to fund math and science education in the United States will fulfill what is needed in the long term – more students graduating from U.S. high schools with their sights set on a career in STEM. Intel has spent a billion dollars over the past 10 years to advance K-12 math and science education. We are happy to contribute more through the inclusion of a new fee on green card applications dedicated toward STEM education and training.

While we are supportive of the legislation, we are reviewing the bill in detail to determine how some provisions, including new requirements that would be placed on H-1B users, will impact Intel. We will work with the Senate Judiciary Committee to address any concerns and seek ways to strengthen the bill even further.

The high skilled employment visa reform in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is a positive contribution toward building our innovation economy. We appreciate the hard work of the eight Senators who crafted the bill, are encouraged by the progress this legislation represents and will continue to work to achieve immigration reform this year.