The U.S. Senate dropped an 844-page immigration bill on America’s shoulders today [PDF]. For decades, the tech industry has been begging for more immigrant engineers, researchers and investors. Here are five essential changes proposed in the United State Senate’s draft of comprehensive immigration reform.
1. Visas For Startups and Investors – A new visa unchains immigrants from U.S. employers, permitting them to found and support their own companies. INVEST visas are open to startup entrepreneurs and angel investors who can prove they’re creating jobs, have a significant stake in the company, and raising (lots of) money.
2. More High Skilled Visas – As expected, the cap on H-1B visas (high-skilled employees) is nearly doubled, from 65,000, to 110,000, with a maximum of 180K in the future.
3. Unlimited Brainiacs – The U.S. is inviting an unlimited number of certain physicians, professors, researchers and other people of “extraordinary ability.”
4. STEM Grads – Up to 25,000 more visas are alloted to immigrants who have earned a master’s degree or above in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).
5. Employers Gotta Pay Up – New fines for H-1B-dependent employers. For instance, there’s a $10,000 application fee for organizations of less than 50 people, where 50 percent to 75 percent of their employees are visa-holding immigrants (H-1B and L visas). There are also wage requirements for H-1B workers, which may alleviate concerns that tech firms are exploiting immigrants for cheap labor.
Many household-name tech companies, from Google to PayPal, were founded by immigrants. This new bill, however imperfect, attempts to bring in more of that international brain power.
[Image: Sun Microsystems (That’s co-founder Vinod Khosla on the left)]