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US Think Tank calls for smoother H-1B process

At present, the US issues 65,000 H-1B non-immigrant visas annually, and another 20,000 for applicants with a master’s degree. Last year, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services received over 2,00,000 applications for these 85,000 visas.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Feb 06, 2020, 09.07 AM IST
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A US-based think tank has called for a more streamlined H-1B visa process to help US companies access skilled foreign talent and boost innovation.
A US-based think tank has called for a more streamlined H-1B visa process to help US companies access skilled foreign talent and boost innovation.

The Committee for Economic Development (CED), which is the public policy centre of New Yorkbased think tank The Conference Board, sought the changes in a report published last week.

They include a better pathway to permanent residence for H-1B workers, a fast track entry programme for top international recruits and an annual allocation for ‘place-based visas.’ The Conference Board’s trustees are business executives, but the recommendations of the CED are not necessarily endorsed by all of its trustees, advisers, contributors or staff members.

"By one estimate, the direct contribution of foreign-born labour to US economic output in 2016 clocked in at around $2 trillion," said Paul Decker, President and CEO of Mathematica and cochair of CED's Workforce Subcommittee, which helped produce the report. "By putting in place smarter immigration policies, indemand foreign workers can make an even greater contribution, generating more prosperity for both themselves and the US economy more broadly," Decker said.

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CED’s recommendations come at a time when US President Donald Trump has stepped up restrictions on immigration and is heading into an election year where he is seeking a second term. “The native-born population of the US is projected to increase by an average of just 0.4% per year over the next four decades," said Howard Fluhr, Chairman Emeritus of Segal and co-chair of CED's Workforce Subcommittee. “Amid this daunting slowdown, immigration reform represents a feasible path for boosting workforce – and ultimately, prosperity.”

The study called for widespread immigration reform, which includes shifting to quarterly or monthly allotments of visas, giving visas on priority for eligible applicants with the highest offered salaries and instituting a mechanism to modestly increase or decrease the number of available visas based on recent demand.

The H-1B visa random lottery should be replaced with a modified, wage-ranking approach, it suggested. At present, the US issues 65,000 H-1B non-immigrant visas annually, and another 20,000 for applicants with a master’s degree. Last year, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services received over 2,00,000 applications for these 85,000 visas.

The report also made a case to create an easier path to residency for visa holders, allowing them to nominate themselves for permanent resident status and offering temporary work authorisation for spouses of visa holders who are on track for permanent residence status. At present, spouses can work in the US on the H-4 Employment Authorisation Document, but there is an ongoing lawsuit to do away with the employment permit, which may be resolved later this year.

Some of the suggestions have been brought up before by President Trump as part of his intended immigration reform, like adopting a points-based immigration selection process to fast track a highly qualified foreign worker towards resident status.
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