Two weeks ago, in the midst of immigration “deadlock,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) submitted a discharge petition in order to retrieve HB-15 from committee and bring it to a floor vote. HB-15 is the House version of the “Gang of 8” immigration reform bill passed in the Senate last spring. The media focus on immigration reform has postulated the petition as an important part of the immigration debate in Washington. Well, the reality is: it’s not. It’s, at the most, a Democratic political strategy to attempt to show support for immigration while making the GOP look bad. Well, as media has focused on this petition and its “importance” in the dissolution political deadlock, we see new developments in immigration regardless of the congressional stagnancy. For starters, April 1st marked the beginning of the 2015 application process on visas for high-skilled foreign workers and the US has become the new number one country for foreign investor visas.
April 1st marked the beginning of the application process for H-1B visas. One of the visas most-applied for – each year it reaches the cap of how many can be applied for each year within a few months. Currently, there is a high demand for high-skilled foreign labor in the US. A majority of those employers request more labor but will continue to wait as their requests are postponed by the annual cap on H-1B visas. A recent report by the American Action Forum’s Laura Collinsdemonstrates that placing a cap on H-1B visas hurts the economy. Furthermore, it is argued that “satisfying demand, even if there are large numbers of unused visas, is more efficient than artificially restricting the number of skilled foreign workers available”. In other words, caps are unnecessary and an easy fix. Making more high-skilled labor visas available is a small step toward massive comprehensive immigration reform. Although it is not full-on reform, it is a step that has yet to be taken.
On the topic of Visas, there has also been a rise in the amount of EB-5 visas, or employment-based fifth preference visas, causing the US to become the new number one supplier of significant investor visas. This visa requires a minimum investment of $500,000 in a new, US based company and the creation of 10 jobs directly, or indirectly through a regional center. This visa was first introduced in the 90s in order to spur foreign investments, but recently has become a way by which many wealthy foreigners can obtain a green card, especially foreigners from China.
Recently, the number of applicants has grown exponentially to this visa program, due to Canada’s repeal of their very similar program. As of 2013, according to a United States Immigration and Customs (USCIS) report, 6,346 applicants were received, 3,699 were approved and over 7,000 remain pending from 2013 and years past. Simple arithmetic shows that the EB-5 program introduces about $277 million in new investments and creates about 40,000 jobs in 2013 alone. Many problems have risen in this program, the main one being fraud. Foreign investors would promise to create a new business, receive investments and then purposely get deported, keeping all of the newly matriculated money to themselves. However, this program is set to expire in September of 2015. Recent legislation has been introduced to extend the EB-5 program along with making it more difficult to corrupt. Some of the changes include stronger communication with investors and EB-5 regional sectors as well as further background checks of business success and investor credibility abroad. Again, this is not the comprehensive immigration reform which many want, but a step in the right direction.
Currently, there are two major overhauls of visa programs being postulated in the US, despite a perception projected by the media that little is being done with regards to immigration reform. Not only is there room for bipartisanship in both removing the cap of H-1B visas and extended the EB-5 program, but both of these measures stand to help the US economy greatly as comprehensive immigration reform looks less and less feasible each day.