The Business Roundtable and The Business Council Enter the Immigration Fray

The Business Roundtable and The Business Council recently released policy recommendations requested by Peter Orzag, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Affairs.

Immigration reform was included in this list and their recommendations are worth recounting.

There were four areas that they focused on, excerpts on each of these policy recommendations are below.

Spousal Employment:

The ability of the spouse of a foreign professional to work in this country is often a key factor in whether that foreign professional will join the American workforce, or remain in it. Our immigration system has recognized this key point in some professional visa categories. Thus, for example, U.S. immigration law allows the spouses of L visa holders – executives, managers, and specialists who transfer into the U.S. operations of multinational corporations – to work. Yet this opportunity is denied to spouses of other key professional visa holders, such as H‐1B “specialty occupation” professionals.

Narrowing Policy Through Individual Visa Adjudications:

Agency adjudications have become increasingly strict in many key professional visa areas. DHS, for example, has made it very difficult to qualify for an L‐1 visa as a professional with “specialized knowledge.” Cases of the type that have been approved for years are now being denied, and companies are being asked in individual cases to provide evidence to fulfill standards that are essentially impossible to meet.

Proposed H1B and L1 Enforcement Legislation:

The so‐called “REPAIR” concept draft for comprehensive immigration reform released last April suggests that the bill language will include additional enforcement measures for H‐1B and L‐1 visas. Although this draft did not contain actual bill language, the proposals suggested in REPAIR go beyond enforcement, such as arbitrary caps on the number of nonimmigrant visas an employer can sponsor, and prohibitions on employment of specialized professionals as third‐party consultants. These and other restrictions are likely to have serious and unintended consequences for the U.S. economy, including higher costs of doing business in the U.S., the movement of existing and/or planned investment and high‐paying, high‐skilled jobs out of the U.S., and the risk of retaliatory action by foreign governments against U.S.‐based companies.

Immigration Caps and Conditions for Skilled Workers:

Companies in need of highly skilled workers rely upon the H‐1B visa program, a critical tool for hiring foreign nationals, especially those with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. Many years, the annual cap for these visas is hit the very first day the visas are available, limiting the ability of companies to attract the talent needed to remain competitive. Likewise, there has been a backlog of employment based (EB) green cards. Backlogs extending over years necessitate the costly and time consuming filing of visa extensions, while the inflexibility of the card limits the ability of employees to change positions within a company. Current policy drives skilled workers to America's competitors and, indeed, may force U.S. employers to take projects abroad to where the workers with the necessary skills reside. Reform would promote domestic job creation and America's global competitiveness.

The Business Roundtable: is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies with nearly $6 trillion in annual revenues and more than 12 million employees.

The Business Council: is a similar consortium of businesses that have a history of advising presidents and congress on economic and business matters.