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H.R. 3146 – More Proposed Legislation for Employment-Based Immigration

October 20, 2011

The American Innovation and Education Act of 2011 (H.R. 3146) was introduced last week by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho). One of the key provisions in the proposed legislation would allow foreign students to become immediately eligible to apply for permanent residency if three conditions are met:

(1) the student obtains a graduate degree at the level of master’s or higher in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) field;

(2) the student has a job offer from a U.S. employer in a field related to the degree; and

(3) the employer offers the higher of the actual wage paid to similar employees or the prevailing wage for the position.

Another significant provision in H.R. 3146 would streamline permanent labor certifications (explained here and here). The pre-filing process for a labor certification takes at least a few months and includes a test of the labor market by the employer. After filing, employers may also face a lengthy wait for a decision in the case. The most recent annual report from the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) shows that at the beginning of FY 2010 (which ran from October 2009 to September 2010), the average number of days to process a case was 394 and the backlog of cases waiting for adjudication was 66,885. During FY 2010, the OFLC was able to reduce the backlog by more than 50% and the average processing time was reduced to 167 days. At present, OFLC is currently processing cases filed in July 2011.

Rep. Labrador’s press release states:

When I practiced immigration law I regularly worked with high tech companies in Idaho who had openings for workers with advanced degrees but, due to the small number of U.S. graduates in these fields, could not find the employees they needed.  I also saw many highly educated foreign-born graduates who wanted to stay in the U.S. and put their education to use in our economy, but could not.  This is a well known problem, and has attracted interest from both sides of the aisle.

. . .

One symptom of America’s broken immigration system is an inability to retain intellectual talent and capitalize on the best and brightest minds who want to help our country grow.  Republicans and Democrats alike agree that this is a real problem and have contributed to finding innovative solutions to keep America in its place as the world’s most innovative nation.   We must end this brain-drain of talent, help our educational system and help American companies maintain their edge in the global economy and create new jobs and careers for Americans nationwide.

The bill has been referred to 3 House committees:  Judiciary; Science, Space, and Technology; and Education and the Workforce.

A press report has pointed out that H.R. 3146 is markedly similar to H.R. 2161 proposed by Rep. Zoe Lofgren who represents the Silicon Valley area in California. Rep. Labrador’s bill is, however, more limited in scope than Rep. Lofgren’s proposed legislation.

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