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US: Lawmakers urged to focus on immigration reform

Last updated on: March 06, 2013 15:59 IST

VisaAmerican experts on Wednesday called for giving Green Card for science, tech, engineering and math students, eliminating country-specific caps and recapture unused visas to spur economic growth and create new jobs in the country.

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement of the House Judiciary Committee, Bruce A Morrison, of the Morrison Public Affairs Group, argued for making green card a convenient route for sponsoring employers and eliminate the need to rely on the H-1B status for a long period, if at all.

Morrison recommended creating a category for advance degree STEM graduates from high quality American universities and move them out from the green card caps.

Considering imposing fees on their immigrant petitions to fund STEM education for Americans, Morrison among other things called for eliminating per-country limit on employment-based visas, recognising that the biggest talent pools come from the biggest countries in the world -- India and China and that the US wants talented innovators regardless of their home country.

"Create incentives for employers to petition for green cards at the beginning of the employment of skilled foreign- born employees, rather than keeping them in temporary status for most of a decade," he said.

Indian-American Deepak Kamra, general partner of Canaan Partners, said the US is at high risk for losing the coveted entrepreneurs to foreign countries as the current legal migration policy has sent a message to the talented people that the US does not need them, and it is no longer the only destination for high tech, high-growth start-up companies.

Kamra told lawmakers that H-1B visa is not a workable solution for starting a company here and called for creating a visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs who wish to start and build a company in the US.

Dean Garfield, president, IT Industry Council, said it is time the US upgrades its skilled immigration system to serve national interest, and anticipate and meet the demands of the US economy -- now and in the future.

"Reform must help fill the tens of thousands of skilled job openings that exist today, while accelerating new jobs for and new knowledge-driven businesses," he said.

"The website dice.com, which is an online aggregator of high tech job openings, currently lists more than 83,000 tech job openings in the US," Garfield said.

"The realities of our global economy require that we have a system that provides sufficient green cards and H-1B visas to fill and create jobs, and to maximize work performed in the United States," he urged the lawmakers.

Garfield said the H-1B and other non-immigrant professional visas are necessary to maximize work in the US, particularly work that advances the US as a hub for innovation.

Testifying before the lawmakers on 'Enhancing American Competitiveness through Skilled Immigration' hearing, Benjamin Johnson, executive director, American Immigration Council, called for more flexibility in the US immigration system.

Noting that many other countries around the world have already updated their immigration policies to attract high- skilled workers who are now choosing other destinations when they encounter barriers for US migration, he said to remain globally competitive, the US must embrace the opportunities brought by high-skilled immigrant students, workers, and entrepreneurs.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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