USA House of Representatives passes act to ease Green Card for Startup owners and PhD holders

USA House of Representatives passes act to ease Green Card for Startup owners and PhD holders
  • The recently passed bill by the US House of Representatives (US Congress) will undergo amendments to expand immigration opportunities for scientists and engineers who are foreign-born. The measures in the bill could become the most significant on legal immigration, if retained during negotiations with the Senate, to pass Congress in more than 30 years.
  • Members of the house who support this bill are of the unanimous opinion that it is extremely important for America to retain talent from foreign countries in order to be competitive in the changing Global scenario. Over 70% of the full-time graduate students at the U.S. universities in industrial engineering, electrical engineering and computer and information sciences are foreign nationals. However, the Members of Congress have found that other countries are doing a better job in attracting and retaining such talent than the United States.
  • House Bill: The U.S. House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act 222 to 210 with only one Republican vote on February 4, 2022 which was similar to the bill passed in June 2021 by the Senate.
  • Significant Immigration Provisions: Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s (D-CA) LIKE Act was added by the Congress House Rules Committee to create an immigrant “Startup visa” on January 25, 2022 which also provided an exemption from annual green card limits and backlogs for foreign nationals with a PhD in STEM fields.
  • These two additions might produce more innovations in the United States owing to the potential to provide new opportunities for entrepreneurs and top researchers around the world than all the other sections of the nearly 3,000-page bill.
  • Through these measures, additional scholarships will be funded for the U.S. students in STEM fields, which will be covered by charging a $1,000 supplemental fee for those receiving a green card status under the legislation. The bill creates a temporary visa for eligible foreign-born entrepreneurs and if the startup entity meets certain additional benchmarks, the founder is allowed to apply for and receive lawful permanent residence.
  • The lack of a startup visa disadvantages the U.S. in retaining and attracting foreign-born entrepreneurs. This measure will also exempt individuals with Ph.D.s in STEM fields from annual green card limits and relieve many from longer wait times for permanent residence and reduce the even longer waits for other highly skilled immigrants.
  • U.S. employers will gain a significant competitive edge by offering permanent residence to outstanding researchers from around the world, including those who are early in their careers and engage in cutting-edge work.
  • Approximately 56% of postdoctoral researchers work on temporary visas and this new measure would give an opportunity to many more to stay in and contribute to the United States. The America COMPETES Act also helps build the domestic STEM workforce of the U.S. and encourages start-up companies to establish roots.
  • Chinese leaders fear a more open U.S. immigration system able to attract high-level science and engineering talent, as they know the extent to which the United Stated benefits from international talent. U.S. immigration restrictions have provided China opportunities to improve its ranks of high-end talent.
  • Ross Amendment Adds Health Professions: Another amendment sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC) at the Rules Committee added that health professions and related programs to the STEM fields eligible for Ph.D.s under the bill shall be exempted from the annual limit on employment-based green cards.
  • Foster Amendment Adds Dual Intent For Many International Students: International students on F visas in STEM fields shall be provided with “dual intent” which means that a consular officer will no longer need to be convinced that a student in a STEM field will not seek permanent residence in the United States.
  • Manning Amendment Expands Eligibility For STEM Green Card Exemption: The exemption from the annual numerical limit for green cards for Ph.D.s in STEM fields has been expanded in an amendment sponsored by Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) to include individuals with a master’s degree if someone works in a critical industry.
  • A critical industry refers to an industry that is critical for the national or economic security of the United States and critical infrastructure means systems and assets that are vital to the U.S. such that the destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security.
  • E-4 Visas For Specialty Occupation Professionals From South Korea: South Korea will be added as a country from which the United States can accept speciality occupation professionals in a new E-4 status on a reciprocal basis with an annual limit of 15,000.
  • Challenges in the Senate: Three challenges must be overcome in the Senate before the House-passed immigration provisions become law. The bill will require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, i.e., a compromise with Republicans in the Senate is necessary.
  • Second, there is a possibility of Senate Republicans who will oppose the House-passed immigration provisions. Third, it is unclear whether Senate Democrats will fight to keep the immigration measures.

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