The biggest criticism of the US government’s H1-B visa program is that it takes high-tech jobs away from deserving US citizens. A new visa proposal could actually have the opposite effect: It may create jobs in the US.
A so-called “entrepreneur's visa” would allow foreign citizens who start new businesses and create jobs in the US to stay in the country, according to The Wall Street Journal. The entrepreneur provision is part of a larger visa proposal that would make it easier for foreign students to remain in the US after they finish their studies, the WSJ says. The students must have a specific skill set: They must hold post-graduate degrees in math, science, or engineering.
US visa programs and its university system have come under increasing fire in the past decade. Critics charge that specialty visas displace US workers; and that universities educate foreign students who take their skills back home after their education is done. The new proposal appears to address both issues by encouraging job creation and by retaining talent.
The H1-B visa program, which allows companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers in the US, has long been a cornerstone of the tech industry. As fewer and fewer US college students graduate with engineering degrees, tech companies say they have to look outside the US for qualified employees. The H1-B program allows individuals with highly specialized skill sets to work in the US in three-year increments, which can be renewed. (See: 2013 H1-B Visa Cap Remains the Same.)
Opponents of H1-B visas say the program has been exploited to bring in workers who are paid less than their US counterparts. This has been a particularly touchy subject in the last few years as US unemployment rates have increased and fair immigration policies are being debated in a presidential election year. (See: H1-B Critics Outline Program Flaws.)
The WSJ reports that the new bill already has bipartisan support. Additionally:
The bill would also create a targeted tax credit to encourage startup firms to invest in research and development. It would allow investors who cash in investments made in start up businesses to avoid capital gains tax as long as they had held the investment for at least five years. This last provision was included in a small business bill signed into law last year.
It would require the administration carry out a cost benefit analysis of any new regulation that has an economic impact of greater than $100 million.
The bill’s backers are hoping that by combining popular immigration provisions with tax and regulatory measures they can convince Senate leaders to bring the legislation to the floor, and avoid a wide ranging debate on immigration policy that would be almost certain to doom the bill in an election year.