US Technology firms lobby for new immigration rules

New York City at night

Representatives of many of the leading technology firms in the USA have lobbied in the congress in order to pass the new legislation that will liberalize the immigration rules for highly skilled professionals that come from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) –related backgrounds. Representatives of companies such as Microsoft, Texas Instruments, Intel, Adobe, Broadcom, Motorola have held meetings with members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In order for the bill to become a law, both houses of the congress must vote with at least 60% in favour of it. The goal of the large technology firms is to persuade as many senators as possible to vote positively.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other key figures in the industry have found an online pressure group, fwd.us, to put pressure on Congress to back the reform act. The reason for the lobbying activities of the tech companies is that even in periods of recession they need foreign workers to work in their industry.

The proposed law would see a large increase in the number of H-1B visas which allow US firms to employ foreign workers in a ‘speciality occupation’. It would also allow foreign students with a doctorate or PhD from a US university and the offer of a job in the US to apply for a US permanent resident visa (colloquially known as a ‘green card’). These applications would be exempt from any cap and would be dealt with without delay.

This level of support is far from assured. While both parties are united in agreement that the US immigration system is in urgent need of reform, they agree about little else. The key area of disagreement is over the bill’s central provision; the establishment of a ‘pathway to citizenship’ for many of the estimated 11.5m illegal immigrants currently living in the US. It is, therefore, possible that Republicans will vote the bill down to prevent this pathway from being established.

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