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

In the previous 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. 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.

The H-1B cap has been reached in each of the last several years, meaning the government must conduct a lottery to determine who receives 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, green cards allow professionals and family members to live and work in the U.S. permanently. Unfortunately, the green card system is deeply flawed. A massive backlog has left individuals from certain counties waiting for permanent residency for decades. There is also currently no 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 is a cosponsor of H.R. 392, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which would address the green card backlog by eliminating per-country caps on how many employment-based green cards can be awarded each year. The bill would also raise the caps for family based green cards. Immigrants who are stuck in the green card backlog are unable to seek promotions, change jobs or relocate. These professionals help create and grow many sectors of the U.S. economy, and making them wait decades for their residency just because of their place of birth is unfair and shortsighted.

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