April 17, 2013

The technology industry’s wish list could soon be a reality, paving the way for more foreign, US-trained technology workers to fill positions and work on short-term projects at U.S. firms.

The proposed overhaul of the immigration law, whose public supporters include Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and John T Chambers of Cisco, includes an easier green card route for foreigners educated at American universities in math and science, together with a new visa category for entrepreneurs, and a provision for more guest workers to be deployed on short-term projects.

The specific provisions will in all likelihood be debated extensively once legislation is introduced on Capitol Hill, but a summary released this week by a bipartisan committee shows a prospering and potentially more politically powerful technology industry, the New York Times points out in an article .

The proposed law shifts the emphasis from an immigration policy that prioritized family ties to one that will prioritize professional degrees, making it easier for people with math and science skills to settle in the U.S., the Times notes.

“That major reorganization tells me this Congress recognizes that the knowledge economy is going to drive the overall economy,” Robert Hoffman, a longtime Washington lobbyist and vice president of the Information Technology Industry Council, a group of some of the largest technology employers, including I.B.M. and Microsoft, told the Times.

Some important provisions include one that would raise fees for companies with U.S. work forces made up mostly of guest workers. Indian outsourcing companies, such as Tata Consultancy Services, which brings workers to temporarily work at U.S. companies and have been accused of depressing wages in the industry, would need in future to pay extra fees to import guest workers.

The Times notes that a company like Microsoft would not pay extra fees since although it imports thousands of guest workers but most of its employees are nevertheless U.S citizens or residents.

According to the proposed immigration law, companies with a majority of guest workers would be unable to bring in more. The law also proposes to raise wages for all guest workers on a H-1B work visa and requires employers to advertise job openings to prospective American workers too.

Overall, the total number of H-1B visas would be raised from the current 65,000 a year to 110,000 a year, with a provision for as many as 180,000 during years of demonstrably high demand.

The new law will also reduce the wait for math and science graduates who apply for green cards regardless of their home country. The current law limits how many green cards can be issued to people from any single country, regardless of its population count.

That effectively means that applicants from countries like India and China, which have a huge supply of young engineers often educated in American universities, typically wait much longer for permanent residence than those from almost every other country.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melanie Rodier has worked as a print and broadcast journalist for over 10 years, covering business and finance, general news, and film trade news. Prior to joining Wall Street & Technology in ...