Chris Chmielenski's picture

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  by  Chris Chmielenski

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 1044, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, 365-to-65. While the bill's title includes the word "fair", the bill, should it become law, would all but eliminate employment-based green cards for nationals from all but a handful of countries.

The House passed the bill despite massive resistance from high-tech American workers and other groups, including NumbersUSA. Focus now turns to the Senate where an attempt to pass a companion bill (S. 386) with unanimous support hit resistance earlier this year.

Should the bill become law, it would remove the per-country caps for employment-based green cards and increase the share of family-preference green cards that each country could receive.

While the bill does not increase the number of green cards issued each year, it would still have an adverse affect on American tech workers.

According to the most recent Visa Bulletin issued by the State Department, there stands a 10-year backlog for Indian nationals for both the EB-2 (advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability) and EB-3 (skilled workers and professionals) green cards. Since most Indian nationals who receive employment-based green cards work in the high-tech industry, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act would greatly increase the competition and wage pressures that American high-tech workers already face.

The Senate version, S. 386, co-introduced by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), has 34 sponsors. It's already come to the floor once, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) objected, placing a hold on the bill. However, his objection wasn't on behalf of American workers. Instead, he's concerned that the bill would reduce the number of foreign nurses who receive green cards. So on Thursday, he introduced legislation that would lift the per-country caps (like H.R. 1044), but also:

  • double the number of employment-based green cards,
  • staple a green card to the diploma of some foreign students who graduate from a U.S. college or university,
  • and provide an unlimited number of green cards for foreign workers in the medical field.

Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) recently introduced H.R. 3564, the Fairness for High Skilled Americans Act. Rep. Gosar's legislation would eliminate the Optional Practical Training Program that allows foreign students who graduate from a U.S. university or college with a degree in STEM work for up to 36 months upon graduation. The OPT program often serves as a bridge to employment-based green cards for many foreign-student graduates.

According to the American Workers Coalition, 275,000 foreign students were employed in the United States in 2017 under the OPT program. Over a ten year period, employers hired 2.5 million OPT and CPT (curricular practical training) workers instead of American workers. There is a huge tax incentive for employers to hire OPT workers because they don't have to pay the 15.3% payroll tax they would have to pay if they hired American workers. Sadly, fewer than 50% of U.S. STEM graduates actually land jobs in STEM upon graduation as a result of the OPT program.

CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Deputy Director for NumbersUSA

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High-Tech Worker Visas

Updated: Mon, Jul 29th 2019 @ 4:05pm EDT

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