Senate Amendment Gives Employers More Clout Over H-1B Visas - InformationWeek

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6/5/2007
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Senate Amendment Gives Employers More Clout Over H-1B Visas

The Electronic Industries Alliance and others wants federal lawmakers to amend the Senate immigration bill to make it easier for employers to hire and retain skilled foreign workers.

The Electronic Industries Alliance wants federal lawmakers to amend the Senate immigration bill to make it easier for employers to hire and retain skilled foreign workers.

The EIA threw its support behind an amendment to Senate immigration reform bill 1348. The full Senate is expected to vote on the amendment within the next day or so.

Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., sponsored the amendment, which would give more influence to companies as they seek to obtain H-1B visas for foreign workers.

The amendment would create an employer-sponsored merit-based program to complement the point-based system detailed in the Senate's immigration compromise under debate Tuesday. It would restore exemptions for people who hold advanced degrees from the United States or in science, technology, engineering, and math. It would also allow foreign workers with "degree equivalency" to find work in related fields instead of limiting them to a specific specialty. In short, it would restore employers' freedoms to choose specific workers with advanced degrees or critical skills and help specific employees gain permanent status.

EIA is urging the Senate to pass the amendment, saying the current legislation would implement a green card system that ignores the role of employers.

"Innovation drives our economy, and this amendment will strengthen the abilities of U.S. companies to attract the best and brightest," EIA leaders explained in a written statement.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger backed the spirit of the amendment in a letter criticizing the proposed compromise for taking power away from employers and placing faith in an unproven government process. The amendment is among more than a dozen that lawmakers and interest groups -- on all sides of the issue -- have proposed. Several media outlets reported Tuesday that the amendments and ensuing debate threatened to undermine the bipartisan compromise.

The House of Representatives plans two hearings on immigration Wednesday and is likely to consider a different set of rules entirely.

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