Congressman Tim Griffin plans to introduce legislation that would make it easier for foreign tech workers who were educated in the United States to obtain a green card.
“We have a shortage of STEM graduates with advanced degrees here in the United States, which hinders American job creators’ ability to grow their businesses and hire additional employees,” said the Arkansas Republican, in a statement Thursday.
“Many highly skilled immigrants study in the U.S. but are forced to return home after graduation, where they work to strengthen their home nation’s economy to compete against ours. I am working on legislation that will change the system so that we can keep the best and the brightest, which will strengthen our economy and create jobs here in America,” Griffin added.
Staff at Griffin’s Washington, D.C. office did not immediate respond to a request for further comment.
Foreign students who graduate from U.S. universities can usually get an H-1B visa to work in the United States, but such visas are good only for a maximum of six years, and the holder can only work for the company that sponsored the H-1B. If the student has no family ties in the country, obtaining a green card, which grants the right to live and work permanently in the U.S. for any employer, can be difficult and take years.
[ It took only two months to fill this year’s allocation of H-1B Visas: No More Until Late 2012. ]
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services usually issues no more than about 140,000 employment-based green cards per year. Backers of immigration reform say that’s not enough to fuel America’s high-tech economy.
Griffin’s comments came in support of a study released Thursday that contends that skilled immigrants create more jobs than they take up. The study, co-sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and the Partnership for A New American Economy, claims that for every science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-educated worker living in the United States, 2.62 new jobs are created.
“At a time when job creation should be our highest priority, the study released [Thursday] casts light on some of the greatest potential areas for growth, at no cost to taxpayers,” said New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who co-chairs the Partnership. “It’s time for Washington to restart the conversation on immigration reform–and to center it on our economic needs.
Other partnership members include the CEOs of Microsoft, AOL, eBay, Xerox, and Compuware, as well as tech and sports entrepreneur Mark Cuban. Microsoft officials have previously said that the company has about 10,000 open positions it can’t fill due to a lack of qualified workers.
The study also found that for every 100 H-1B workers introduced into the economy, an additional 183 jobs are created for U.S. natives. It also said that the average, foreign-born adult with an advanced degree pays more than $22,500 in taxes, while receiving about $2,300 in benefits.
“The report adds important evidence to the case that economists have been making for years: that identifiable categories of immigrants unquestionably give a lift to native employment,” said Madeleine Zavodny, an economist at Agnes Scott College and a co-author of the report.
The report backers are calling for legislation that would give green card priority to high-tech workers who studied at a U.S. university, increase the overall supply of green cards, and raise the numerical limit on H-1B visas, which currently sits at 85,000.
The House last month voted to eliminate per-country caps on employment-based green cards, a move that could make it easier for tech workers from highly populated nations like India and China to obtain permanent resident status. The Senate is expected to approve the new rules.