White House Remains Steadfast in Support of Senate Immigration Bill

By January 16, 2014News & Press

Many U.S. companies — dependent on a relatively unrestricted granting policy for H-1B visas — are nervous over a U.S. Senate bill that would make the visas more costly.

The Obama administration hopes to make the Senate measure the heart of its immigration reform proposals. As such, the White House has been trying to make the case that the legislation would prove beneficial to work-related immigrants in the United States, particularly to those from India.

When he met with President Obama in September, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signaled his nation’s concern that Congress might restrict immigration from India, particularly that of Indian businesspeople and their capital. With India among the top 10 origins of immigrant entrepreneurs to the United States, it is not difficult to see why the prime minister brought up the issue.

But in throwing his weight behind the Senate-crafted immigration measure, Obama referenced the issue Singh raised (albeit without directly addressing the latter’s constituent concerns).

“The Senate bill would create new pathways for immigrant entrepreneurs and investors and make key improvements to the H-1B program,” reads a White House fact sheet.

Petitioners from India constitute a hefty 64 percent of all workers who come to the United States on H-1B visas, so the White House has also pointed out that the new Senate legislation would increase the number of available H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000 each year.

The White House has also emphasized that much-in-demand science, technology, engineering and mathematics doctoral and master’s degree graduates would be exempt from the annual 140,000 visa cap. This exemption for STEM graduates could prove significant to Indian students, as Indian immigrants constitute 56 percent of all immigrant students pursuing a master’s degree in computer science and engineering in the United States.

In addition, the White House has stressed the expanded business opportunities it foresees for foreign investors as a result of the Senate measure, which would bump the number of EB-5 visas up from 10,000 to 14,000 per year.

However, resistance to some of the Senate’s key proposals from domestic labor groups (among other interests) block any guarantee that the upper chamber’s measure will survive through the next session, much less emerge unchanged from the House of Representatives.

Still, the language from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue remains supportive of the Senate measure.

“The Senate bill would eliminate the existing backlogs for employment-based green cards, exempt certain employment-based categories from the annual cap and remove annual country limitations altogether,” the White House said.

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