Silicon Valley, Tech Leaders Push for Greater Immigration Status Expansion

Silicon Valley, Tech Leaders Push for Greater Immigration Status Expansion

Silicon Valley and technology leaders were left wanting more after Obama’s Thursday evening declaration of sweeping executive expansion of legal status for approximately five million illegal aliens. 

Despite the mass expansion, high-skilled workers seeking visas and green cards, along with some tech employers, are echoing the President’s push for further Congressional immigration status expansion.

“I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed,” Obama said in his speech Thursday.

Caps on the number of those seeking “green card” status will not change under Obama’s new plan, which will reportedly only adjust the process. An expansion of green card availability to children and spouses through employment-based green card allotments means decreased availability for foreign tech workers due to current limits.

Emily Lam, vice president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) said, “We absolutely need legislative fixes because the president cannot increase the [visa] cap, and that is what really hurts start-ups and large companies,” according to the Los Angeles Times. SVLG represents close to 400 tech companies. There is a 65,000 cap on general H-1B visas, with an additional 20,000 available under an advanced degree exemption. The Times reports almost twice as many applicants seek these visas each year.

Microsoft Corp. board director Maria Klawe sees Obama’s high-tech immigration issue adjustments as not helpful to the tech workforce, the Times further reported.

“U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering and computer programming,” according to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) release.

In April of 2014, USCIS announced it had, “received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year (FY) 2015.” At the same time, USCIS had received applications in excess of the 20,000-advance degree exception limit. A computer-generated process randomly selects those applications that will be approved within the acceptable limits.

“It doesn’t help my situation,” Sandeep Chandra said, according to KPBS. Chandra made the comment in response to Obama’s Thursday announcement. Chandra told KPBS he works for the San Diego based Supercomputer Center while on an H-1B visa. “There are people like me who’ve been here for 14 years now and still haven’t gotten their immigration done,” said Chandra, who has been waiting for a green card since he applied in 2008.

Just a week before President Obama’s amnesty announcement, Chinese nationals were granted the ability to receive 10-year visas for business or travel purposes, reported Breitbart News. “Under the new arrangement, student and exchange visas will be extended to five years; business and tourist visas will be extended to 10 years,” Obama announced. Prior to his policy change, Chinese visa recipients were required to undergo yearly review of renewal application. U.S. law caps the length of any visa at 10 years.

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