As part of the immigration reform talks talking place in congress, the U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced a bill that would eliminate the random lottery that gives 50,000 applicants a green card and instead give them to people with advanced degrees in science, engineering and math. However, senate Democrats oppose the bill since it eliminates the possibility for people with no advanced degree the ability to legally enter the U.S.
The bill, proposed by Republicans, even allows for the family of legal immigrants the chance to live with their family members in the U.S. The bill, as it is currently worded, would actually lower the number of immigrants to the country, since there is not a demand for an extra 50,000 high-skilled workers every year after the backlog is eliminated. However, there is no debate that there is currently a backlog for highly-skilled workers, especially in Silicon Valley and California in general.
Democrats want to propose more sweeping reforms, including amnesty for undocumented workers currently in the U.S. As part of that proposal Democrats would likely include a change in the law for high-skilled workers and the number of green cards given overall.
About one-fifth of legal immigrants to the U.S. are highly skilled, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The U.S. is particularly interested in “STEM” immigrants, meaning immigrants skilled with science, technology, engineering and math.
Besides green cards that grant immigrants permanent residency, employers can also get temporary work visas for highly skilled immigrants through the H-1 and H-1B Visa program. There is also a backlog for H-1B Visas, particularly for Indian and Chinese workers. However, a separate bill recently passed the House which granted more visas for skilled workers from these countries. It did not actually provide more visas, just allocated more visas from workers from those countries who have been hit particularly hard by U.S. immigration law. For example, some Indians with science or technology skills who were approved recently for permanent resident visas can face waits of 70 years before they would actually receive their documents.
Because of the potential delay in receiving green cards, workers and employers seeking to use high-skilled work programs to enter the country should contact an experienced immigration law attorney to ensure that their immigration matter is resolved as quickly as possible. A knowledgeable immigration law attorney will also be able to stay on top of any changes in the law.