The United States should increase the number of skills-based immigrants.

January 10, 2019

Immigrants to the United States are net job creators who drive new innovations that deliver dividends across the economy and in communities large and small. They are a beneficial, needed complement to the native-born workforce, not a replacement. According to an October 2018 report from the National Foundation for American Policy, U.S. companies valued at $1 billion dollars or more with immigrant founders created an average of 1,200 jobs per company.

U.S. immigration policy should reflect the widely accepted fact that our economy and communities have benefited from immigrants’ knowledge, skills and hard work — particularly in the high-demand science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Proposed solutions include:

  • Reducing the green card backlog for high-skilled, foreign-born professionals. Only 140,000 green cards are available each year for employment-based immigrants, which includes the employees themselves and their family members. Several reforms can be made to alleviate these backlogs and reduce the time high-skilled professionals must currently wait to receive permanent status, including: increasing annual limits on green cards; eliminating per-country limits on green cards; exempting family members from the 140,000 cap; and exempting those with special skills (e.g., individuals with STEM graduate degrees).
  • Removing barriers to retaining foreign-born graduates of U.S. colleges and universities, especially those with advanced STEM degrees. A high percentage of STEM graduate students at U.S. universities are foreign born, and America would benefit from encouraging them to stay and work here. Programs that allow them to work after graduating, like Optional Practical Training (OPT), should be preserved, and a green card should be stapled to the diplomas of those with special skills who want to work and stay in the United States.
  • Recognizing that employers, not bureaucrats, are best positioned to identify skills gaps and select their workforces. Business leaders best know the talent needed to grow their operations and make the biggest positive impact possible on the U.S. economy.