Tech industry backs immigration reform

Posted by Emma Woollacott

With strong support from the tech industry, a bipartisan group of senators has released a set of immigration proposals focused on highly-skilled, high-tech workers.

The Immigration Innovation Act would increase the H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to 115,000 and make it easier for people with advanced tech degrees from US universities to get a green card.

The bill would also make it easier to adjust the number of visas being issued to better reflect the state of the economy. Last year, for example, the H-1B visa cap was reached as early as June, putting an abrupt stop to tech recruitment.

"Other countries, like Chile and Canada, have responded with immigration policies and programs that welcome these innovators who have been turned away from the US," says Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations for Google.

Barack Obama also wants a new 'startup visa' to help the founders of businesses remain in the country.

"Right now there are brilliant students from all around the world sitting in classrooms at our top universities," he said yesterday.

"They are earning degrees in the fields of the future like engineering and computer science. But once they finish school, once they earn that diploma, there's a good chance they'll have to leave our country."

The bill would also up the fee for a visa by $1,000, making the cost about 40 percent higher than at present. The money would go towards state-based science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

"[The Immigration Innovation Act] is a common-sense solution that meets the needs of our high-tech economy without harming domestic employment," says Gregg Melinson, vice president of global government relations for HP.

"It also provides needed funding for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs targeted at helping American residents get the skills companies need to be more innovative and globally competitive."