Obama Tells Silicon Valley that Increased Number of Visas for Scientists Must Be Part of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Large technology companies in the Silicon Valley will soon be very disappointed with President Obama after his stated opposition to the STEM Jobs Act they have been trying to push forward. Many huge names in Silicon Valley such as Cisco, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Apple who financially supported President Obama’s campaign have been met with little enthusiasm regarding their proposal to Congress.

Tech Companies Want Greater Numbers of Visas

Major technology companies backed a new immigration reform bill that would allow U.S. educated computer programmers and engineers to remain in the country. To the company’s great surprise, the President stated his clear opposition to the bill, which “would make up to 55,000 visas available to foreigners who earned a master’s or doctoral degree in certain science or technology area from a U.S. university. Those visas would only be available if immigration authorities certify that no American workers are available to fill the post.” While it is not one hundred percent certain that the bill will be vetoed, the White House released a statement saying that the administration opposes the passage of H.R. 6429.  The Senate is not expected to pass the bill.

Technology companies worry that immigration reform is not being addressed quickly enough. Every year between 40,000 to 50,000 people are graduating with upper level degrees and about half are required to leave the country. These educated people then take the education they learned in the U.S. and startup companies that are as big as Google and Apple. The revenues from those companies could be going to the U.S. if the proposed bill is passed.

White House Opposition to the Bill

The White House does not necessarily oppose every aspect of the bill, but it has made clear that it is too narrowly tailored to meet the future larger scale objectives that the President has in plan. A controversial piece of the bill “would eliminate the 55,000 diversity visas available to citizens of countries with low immigration rates to the United States.” The sponsors of the STEM Jobs Act seek to eliminate the diversity visa lottery – which allows immigrants from underrepresented nations to participate in a visa lottery – and to use those visas for scientists, etc.

As of right now, this bill is most likely to die in the Senate, but rejection is no stranger to these Silicon Valley firms. Their previous attempt to authorize 75,000 “entrepreneur visas” under a bill called Startup Act 2.0 did not receive a single hearing from the House or Senate. While the President and Congress work on reforming immigration policies that are not overly specific to any particular industry, one must keep in mind “52 percent of Silicon Valley startups were “immigrant-founded.” Our firm has several Missouri and Illinois clients that are greatly interested in the availability of more visas for highly educated individuals.  If you have questions regarding immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.

We discussed the Stem Jobs Act and the President’s opposition in this week’s podcast, which you can access here.