Highly Skilled Immigration Reform

Highly Skilled ImmigrationOn Tuesday, Obama won re-election, Republicans got control of the House of Representatives, and Democrats got majority in the Senate.

Obama will have to act upon his promise of immigration reform on his second term. Although Republicans in the house are not likely to rally behind him, he is sure to find support in some members of Congress. One issue that will likely be addressed is the need for more high-skilled immigrants.

Between 2000 and 2010, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, STEM, jobs grew three times more than the rate of other fields.  The demand is expected to keep growing and not enough native-born Americans are filling those slots. Large American companies like Microsoft, Intel and Hewlett-Packard support the expansion of the number of H-1B visas awarded each year; the current annual cap is 65,000.

Microsoft is so much in support of foreign talent and STEM employees that in September it not only suggested a higher cap but also the increase of the H-1B visa fees employers pay in order to promote STEM education.

Another change that companies are looking for is the loosening of restrictions on the L-1 visa, which allows a foreign company that doesn’t have a U.S. office to send a foreign executive or manager to the U.S. to establish one.

These topics will likely be a big part of the immigration conversation for the next four years. Both high-skill and illegal immigration contribute to the U.S. economy. Immigration reform should be structured to keep up with the current economic needs.