Foreign-born entrepreneurs have historically been an integral part of both Silicon Valley and our nation’s economic success.


Today, foreign students earn more than half of the science and engineering Ph.D. degrees in the United States. Due to tighter overall immigration policies in the past decade, most of these students do not have the option of remaining in the U.S. after they’ve earned their degrees, even if they’re offered employment. Rep. Eshoo believes our immigration laws should encourage the best and brightest to innovate in our country, rather than having to take their talents to another, and the law should reflect this.

The IDEA Act of 2011

Last Congress, Rep. Eshoo joined Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and several other Members in introducing H.R. 2161, the Immigration Driving Entrepreneurship in America (IDEA) Act of 2011. This legislation would have allowed our country to attract and maintain the most highly-skilled graduates in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), created new visa categories for innovators and job creators, and invested in our educational system to bolster our workforce and competitiveness.

The IDEA Act would have:

  • Awarded Green Cards to entrepreneurs who attract venture capital funding and agree to open their start-ups in the U.S., rather than in foreign countries.
  • Awarded Green Cards to entrepreneurs who create durable, long-lasting new jobs for at least 10 American workers.
  • Eliminated backlogs and streamline procedures in our existing employment-based visa system.
  • Protected American workers by increasing wage thresholds and fixing the broken H-1B and L-1 visa programs.
  • Invested significantly in improving American STEM education.

Many of these provisions are included in S. 744, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in the 113th Congress. Rep. Eshoo will continue to fight for comprehensive legislation in the House of Representatives that contains the important, job-creating provisions of the IDEA Act.

H-1B Visas

Providing the right types and numbers of visas for temporary and skilled foreign workers is an important part of immigration policy. Rep. Eshoo believes U.S. visa policy should be revamped to strike an appropriate balance by ensuring that American companies are not forced to relocate overseas to find adequate labor; protecting U.S. workers from having their jobs overtaken by a cheaper labor source; and integrating the best foreign talent to enhance our economy and our society.

The H-1B visa allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations, such as engineering, mathematics, biotechnology, medicine and education. These visas grant residency for three years and are extendable to a maximum of six. Foreign workers must have their bachelor’s degrees and are strictly limited to working for the employers sponsoring their H-1B visas. The annual cap on H-1B visas has not been raised since 2004 and currently stands at 65,000 with an additional 20,000 H-1B visas set aside for those holding a master’s degree or higher.

In April of 2013, the H-1B cap was reached in just five days, the minimum amount of time that the filing period is required to stay open. In five days, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received 124,000 applications for the 85,000 H-1B slots, meaning the agency had to conduct a lottery to determine who would receive a visa. Rep. Eshoo believes there should be an ample number of visas every year to allow employers to fill their labor needs and to allow the U.S. to capture the best and brightest of foreign talent. At the same time, the H-1B visa system must be reformed. Rep. Eshoo supports stricter safeguards and oversight of the H-1B visa process, so that they are not used by companies to undercut American wages or when American labor is available.

For more information on the H-1B Visa program, including current eligible petitions and caps, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Green Cards

Unlike the temporary H-1B Visa which grants residency for three to six years, Employment-Based (EB) Green Cards allow professionals to live and work in the U.S. permanently. Unfortunately, the EB Green Card system is deeply flawed. A massive backlog has left professionals and their families waiting for permanent residency for up to six years. Nearly one million highly-educated individuals are waiting for their Green Cards, with only 140,000 available annually. Today, there is not a direct path for a student to obtain a Green Card. It is counterproductive to educate and train foreign students at U.S. universities and companies in highly competitive and innovative fields, only to have them leave the U.S. because they are unable to secure permanent residence.

Rep. Eshoo believes that along with a revamping of the H1-B visa system, the EB Green Card system should be overhauled as well. Foreign professionals come to depend on H-1B Visas while they are waiting for their Green Card. This puts a heavy burden on H-1B Visas and creates a disadvantage for those truly seeking a temporary work visa. Immigrants waiting for their Green Cards are unable to seek promotions, change jobs or relocate. These professionals help create and grow many sectors of the U.S. economy. Making them wait six years or more for residency is unfair and shortsighted.

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