Tech groups ask for a variety of skilled immigration changes

Some groups call for green card reform, some for entrepreneur visas, some for many reforms

By , IDG News Service |  IT Management

Congress should increase the number of green cards and the number of H-1B visas, and it should create an entrepreneur visa program, countered Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council, a tech trade group.

The number of green cards issued in the U.S. has remained unchanged since 1990, and the H-1B program has seen only a "modest" increase since then, Garfield said.

"We're here for one simple reason: Our skilled immigration system is broken and does not serve our national interest," he said. "Our economy depends on an immigration system that was assembled nearly a quarter of a century ago. Does anyone here drive a car, operate a computer, or talk on a cellphone manufactured in, but not repaired or upgraded, since 1990?"

Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican and chairman of the full Judiciary Committee, suggested that green card and H-1B should happen together, with the programs complementing each other better. Goodlatte suggested that U.S. companies may offer foreign workers a "tryout" under the H-1B program before helping them with a green card.

Although witnesses and lawmakers floated a range of ideas about skilled immigration reform, Congress may be headed in the right direction, said Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat and sponsor of an entrepreneur visa bill in 2011. Lofgren said she has "an increased sense of optimism" that Congress will move forward on skilled immigration reform.

U.S. immigration policy is turning away foreign graduates of U.S. colleges and entrepreneurs, she said. "The result has been a reverse brain drain," Lofgren said. "And it is not good for our country."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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