Andy Halataei photo
SKILLS Visa Act Moves Immigration Reform Forward

After many weeks, when the focus of those of us deeply involved in skilled immigration reform has been on the U.S. Senate, our attention today shifts to the U.S. House of Representatives, where Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and other members of Congress have introduced a good piece of legislation that will serve as a starting point for reform in that chamber.

The Supplying Knowledge Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM (SKILLS) Visa Act is contains reform measures similar to the bipartisan Immigration Innovation Act in the Senate.  The SKILLS Visa Act would help to modernize the U.S. immigration system so that our nation remains the global leader for innovation.  Without question, expanding opportunities for high-skilled immigrants to stay and work in the U.S. would bring new jobs and new businesses to our country.  Research has found that, from 2001-10, even with the severe recession hammering the U.S. economy at the end of the decade, every 100 approved H-1B visas were associated with an additional 183 jobs for U.S. natives.  Foreign-born scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs have helped to establish America as a world leader in business and technology.

Yet, today’s immigration system blocks too many talented people from staying in the U.S. and making valuable contributions to our economy.  We literally turn graduates of our own university system away -- people with the skills and ingenuity to make world-changing breakthroughs.  By taking important steps to fix our broken permanent and temporary visa system, the sponsors of the SKILLS Visa Act recognize that, in an increasingly competitive global economy, the U.S. must attract and keep the best and brightest individuals from all corners of the world. 

Looking longer term, we must make a greater commitment to the development of America’s home-grown talent in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  We’re falling behind the rest of the world -- and fast.  Through increased visa fees, the SKILLS Visa Act would invest critical new resources in America’s schools and target them specifically at STEM education.  This is essential for the U.S. to develop the talented workforce that will be central to our future success in this knowledge-driven economy.

In truth, skilled immigration reform and investments in domestic STEM programs are intertwined. Both are essential to our nation's future economic security and vitality.  To create new jobs and drive new innovations today, we need to open our doors to more talented people from around the globe.  And, while we are doing so, we must invest in our children so they are prepared to take this mantle of discovery and invention, and use it to power new industries and new opportunities across the country.

We are fortunate to have Chairman Issa, an innovator and entrepreneur himself, as the leading sponsor of the SKILLS Visa Act.  We will continue to work with leaders like him, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren, and others to strengthen the U.S. immigration system so it encourages talented immigrants to come to and innovate in America.


ITI's Andy Halataei speaks at the news conference to unveil the SKILLS Visa Act.
ITI's Andy Halataei speaks at the House
news conference to unveil the SKILLS
Visa Act, with Chairmen Darrell Issa (right)
and Bob Goodlatte looking on.
Public Policy Tags: Workforce, Immigration