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Changing visa rules to boost job growth PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 August 2011 11:36

The fight in Congress over comprehensive immigration reform sometimes feels intractable. Democrats are nominally for big changes. Yet in 2009-10, when Democrats controlled the House, the Senate and the White House, sweeping changes didn’t advance for reasons that still aren’t fully clear.

Meanwhile, Republicans are nominally strongly against illegal immigrants. Yet some of their key allies, starting with the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, like the cheap labor provided by these immigrants.

Thankfully, the Obama administration has figured out a way to make significant changes in a key area of immigration without needing to get congressional blessings. Last week, the administration unveiled a plan to change visa policies to make it much easier to attract “foreign entrepreneurial talent of exceptional ability.”

In a telephone interview with editorial writers and other journalists from around the world, Alejandro Mayorkas, chief of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the Obama administration saw making temporary work visas and green cards more available to proven job-creators as a smart way to help the U.S. economy. The changes will allow some foreign entrepreneurs to receive H-1B visas – given to foreign workers with specialized skills – if they can demonstrate a viable plan for a start-up business that makes products or provides services that are in the U.S. national interest. Previously, these individuals had to have a standing job offer. Also, a foreign investor can receive a green card if he or she invests a minimum of $500,000 in a U.S. venture that creates at least 10 jobs.

Beyond these changes, Mayorkas also said efforts will be made to sharply streamline the processing of H-1B visa applications, which The Washington Post reported now takes up to a year in some categories. The new goal is to have processing finished within a few weeks.

This is the sort of constructive change that high-tech executives, from Bill Gates on down, have sought for years. A San Diego high-tech giant, Qualcomm, hailed the move. “We see this as a vital component of our economic recovery,” Bill Bold, company senior vice president of government affairs, told us in an email. “Research has shown that for every H-1B visa issued, technology companies create five U.S. jobs.”

Bold notes that much more should be done by Congress to make it easier to retain talented foreign nationals who want to work in the U.S. permanently. We agree.

But for now, it is refreshing to see common sense prevail in at least one area of immigration. For all its present woes, the United States remains immensely attractive to billions of people around the world. Using our visa policies to attract highly skilled individuals from this group – individuals who would help our struggling economy to thrive – is a great idea.

Read More: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/aug/08/changing-visa-rules-to-boost-job-growth/

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