Business for Skilled Worker Immigration, the Chamber-led national coalition, traveled to Washington on April 24 to build support for three key immigration reforms: expansion of H-1B skilled worker visas, creation of entrepreneur visas, and increased availability of green cards for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) graduates. The coalition now has 50 members, and the delegation to Capitol Hill included members from Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. The delegation met with leaders in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to urge adoption of skilled worker immigration reforms as part of immigration legislation currently under consideration by Congress.
The Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Eight” released a comprehensive immigration bill on April 17th which includes each of the three reforms our coalition has prioritized. Their bill would: a) raise the base cap on H-1B visas from 65,000 to 110,000 with an upper limit of 180,000 based on demand and labor market conditions, b) allocate up to 40 percent of immigrant visas for applicants with advanced degrees and exempt STEM graduates from U.S. universities from the annual visa cap if they have an offer of employment from a U.S. business in a related field., and c) create a new startup visa category for foreign-born entrepreneurs with U.S. investor backing. Hearings on the bill are being held now, followed by markup in early May, and a Senate vote potentially in late May or early June.
A bipartisan coalition of eight House members is also working to finalize and release a comprehensive immigration plan soon – this legislation is also expected to advance important skilled worker immigration issues. The delegation’s visit to Capitol Hill included meetings with two members of the bipartisan House coalition that is crafting this bill.
Momentum has building for immigration reform in recent months, but final passage is not yet assured and continued advocacy from the business community will be critical to a successful outcome. The Chamber will continue working with member firms, our coalition partners, and Congressional leaders from Massachusetts and other states to secure enactment of skilled worker immigration reforms this year.