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Bipartisan Proposal for Comprehensive Immigration Reform Includes New Employment-Based Green Card Opportunities

Senate_in_session.jpgA proposal issued on January 28, 2013 by a group of eight U.S. senators, entitled the “Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform” (the “Framework”) offers an outline of at least two possible new forms of employment-based immigration. One method would apply to immigrants with advanced technical degrees, and the other would allow lower-skilled workers in industries like agriculture to come to the U.S. to work, with the number of visas adjusted based on economic conditions. The proposed green card programs are very ambitious, and the Framework provides no specific details about whether some of their features would even be feasible.

Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Eight senators, including Democrats Charles Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, issued the Framework as part of a broad national discussion on immigration reform. The Framework identifies four “legislative pillars”: 1. allowing undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to gain citizenship while improving border security, 2. immigration reforms that strengthen American families and the economy, 3. improved verification of employment eligibility, and 4. employment-based immigration that meets the needs of America’s workforce and protects workers. The Framework’s proposals for the second and fourth pillars include recommendations for employment-based green cards.

STEM Green Cards

One proposal would create a new category of green card for immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from American universities. A bill that would have created such a green card category died in the Senate late last year, based on objections to the bill’s elimination of the entire diversity visa program. Some sort of reform in this area is necessary, as research suggests that the U.S. is facing a shortfall in workers with STEM degrees. According to a May 2012 report from the Partnership for a New American Economy and the Partnership for New York City, the growth of the U.S. workforce has slowed to under one percent, and the country could face a shortfall of 230,000 STEM-educated workers by 2018.

Green Cards for “Lower-Skilled Workers”

The Framework also includes recognition of undocumented immigrants who, despite lacking legal status or work authorization, perform “important and difficult” work in the agriculture industry and therefore help maintain the American food supply. Such workers, the Framework states, should have an opportunity to obtain legal status and citizenship in return for this service.

Employers, the Framework states, should be able to hire “lower-skilled workers” if they can demonstrate that no American workers can fill the jobs. The number of visas available for these jobs should be adjustable based on the number of workers needed and the rate of job creation. Caps on employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visas cause long delays for workers and employers, so the idea of allowing adjustments to those numbers is welcome in principle. Whether such a large task is within the capability of immigration authorities that currently have backlogs in excess of twenty years for some visa categories remains to be seen.

The employment immigration attorneys of Samuel C. Berger, P.C. help immigrants seeking visas to work for, or invest in, a New York or New Jersey business, and help businesses petition for skilled immigrant employees. To schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team, contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.

Web Resources:

Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (PDF file)Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Senators Schumer, McCain, Durbin, Graham, Menendez, Rubio, Bennet, and Flake, January 28, 2013
Not Coming to America: Why the U.S. is Falling Behind in the Global Race for Talent (PDF file), The Partnership for a New American Economy and the Partnership for New York City, March 2012
More Blog Posts:

Inaugural Address Includes Call for Immigration Reform to Attract More Workers in High-Tech Fields, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, January 28, 2013
Immigration Authorities Have Allegedly Undercounted H-1B Visas Since 2008, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, December 20, 2012
Almost Half of the Applications for H1-B Visas are from Computer Companies; New York Leads the Demand for Skilled Immigrants, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 19, 2012
Photo credit: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.