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Microsoft's Solution for Immigration Reform

Microsoft’s Solution for Immigration Reform

Microsoft has proposed what it considers a win-win solution for the shortage of high-tech workers in the US: charge employers high fees, as high as hundreds of millions of dollars, to hire more skilled workers from overseas and use the revenue generated to fund US schools with educational training so that those jobs can eventually filled by Americans.

Microsoft, currently needing 6,000 open positions to be filled, advocated that Congress create 20,000 new regular cap H-1B visas solely for jobs in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, also known as “STEM.” This would increase the annual regular cap for H-1B specialty workers from 65,000 to 85,000. In addition to the regular cap H-1B quota of 65,000, there is a separate H-1B Advanced Degree Exception (ADE) quota of 20,000 available for those specialty workers who graduated with a master’s degree or higher from a US college or university. Microsoft’s proposal only touched upon increasing the regular cap quota. Furthermore, in order to allow STEM workers to become permanent residents instead of being limited to only six-years as H-1B workers currently are, Microsoft suggested that Congress release 20,000 green cards annually, from a backlog of nearly half a million.

How would this benefit the American economy? Brad Smith, Microsoft’s executive vice president and general counsel, said companies would be willing to pay $10,000 for each new H-V visa; currently, for large companies, the filing fee is $2,325 for each new H-1B visa. The proposed “investment” for a STEM worker’s green card would be $15,000. The proposed H-1B and green card fee would generate $500 million a year. The money brought in by the increased fees could be used to hire more STEM teachers for kindergarten through the end of high school so that advanced computer-science courses could be available in high school itself. Presently, 95% of US high schools do not have these courses.

The plan was proposed on Thursday by Smith on behalf of Microsoft but is supported by other IT companies and trade groups