I-Squared will help ensure the US has the skilled talent it needs to grow

Jan 26, 2018   |   Brad Smith - President

US Capitol dome at sunrise

The lifeblood of Microsoft is and will always be our employees. Our company was built by a world-class team comprised of many of the best and brightest people, including many of the best software developers from around the world. High-skilled immigration has not only been important to the success of Microsoft and other individual tech companies, but in the global leadership position of the entire American tech sector. Our collective success won’t continue unless Congress reforms the nation’s immigration system into one that protects American workers while preserving the ability of American companies to continue to recruit the world’s best high-skilled talent.

That’s why we support new legislation introduced Thursday by Sen. Orrin Hatch and Sen. Jeff Flake that takes important steps to reduce the green card backlog, strengthen U.S. worker protections, prevent H-1B program abuse and raise new STEM training funds for Americans. At a time of such great discourse in our country around immigration, we believe that S.2344, the Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act, strikes the right balance to keep our economy strong, attract and retain top global talent and build more opportunities for American workers. We hope the Senate’s leaders will come together to support these important reforms.

One of the most important features of I-Squared is its focus on eliminating bottlenecks in the lengthy green card process for high-skilled workers. As we’ve stated previously as we’ve endorsed and spoken out for HR 392, current per country limits on employment-based green cards are arbitrary and create uncertainty and tremendous hardship for our employees and their families as they endure decades-long backlogs. This uncertainty is also not good for American businesses that want to retain this valuable talent in the country.

I-Squared eliminates those discriminatory per country limits. It also ensures that green card numbers that have gone unused in prior years due to bureaucratic processes are not wasted, but instead applied to reduce the existing backlog. I-Squared further proposes a new conditional green card process for a more direct path to permanent residence, giving more security to both employers and employees. If Congress could move forward and diminish the many uncertainties in the green card process, we could then focus even more effort on our work creating next generation technology.

I-Squared also takes significant steps to strengthen protections for American workers and prevent abuses of the H-1B program. The bill directly prohibits use of the H-1B program to displace American workers; it prohibits certain practices that currently get in the way of ensuring that H-1Bs that have been approved are actually used; and it implements more rigorous wage requirements. At the same time, the bill builds flexibility into the program to adjust at a measured pace to the market demand for high-skilled talent.

Particularly in today’s strong economy, we need to take additional steps to prepare Americans for digital jobs by investing in our domestic STEM training programs. Through the additional fees imposed by I-Squared, close to $1 billion additional dollars could be provided each year to states to support STEM education and build the country’s talent pipeline and support training for U.S. workers to enter STEM fields, including apprenticeships. As we’ve said before, these are fees that Microsoft is more than prepared to pay.

High-skilled immigration programs are critical to meeting our country’s need for skilled talent. But it needs to complement — not compete with — investing in the American workforce. The bill introduced by Senators Hatch and Flake hits the right note and makes the system better for all of us.

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