The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's priorities in advocating for the needs of employers concerning immigration revolve around six priority issues:
Worker Visas. The Chamber will advocate for continuing and expanding temporary worker programs for highly skilled workers and securing additional workers to be responsive to regional and local labor market needs or shortages, including the expansion of existing worker visa programs, such as the H-1B, H-2B, and H-2A visa programs.
We support strong language ensuring the viability of temporary worker programs, so that U.S. companies will be able to hire legal workers in a timely fashion when U.S. workers are not available. It is also important to back employment-based permanent residency categories that enable employers to access and retain the talent necessary to compete in the global market. We consider it critical to support initiatives which streamline the sponsorship process for worker visas, and it is equally vital that we oppose proposals which add layers of bureaucracy and impose new anticompetitive visa fees on U.S. business.
In the high-skilled immigration area, targeting the retention of innovators and the highly educated is also integral, and worth highlighting. To the extent that individuals earning graduate degrees from U.S. institutions are permitted to be sponsored by employers for either H-1B status or permanent residency without regard to numerical caps that would otherwise apply, some of the long waits for such classifications would dissipate.
While there are other reforms to be considered regarding the high-skilled immigration categories, an exemption from the numerical caps for those earning U.S. graduate degrees might be a good start.
In addition, while individuals working lawfully in the U.S. are integrated into the U.S. research and business environment and often develop great ideas for new enterprises, they currently do not have access to a lawful immigration status that would allow them to remain in the U.S. to start their new business and create employment for U.S. workers. The Chamber supports efforts to encourage individuals holding H-1B status or completing graduate degrees from U.S. institutions to remain in the U.S. as entrepreneurs through changes to the immigrant investor category.
Trade and Travel. The Chamber will continue to advocate before Congress and the Administration to create agency review processes regarding admissions and inspections at our U.S. ports of entry, as well as visa adjudications at U.S. consulates abroad, to ensure that people wishing to travel to the U.S. for legitimate business or tourism are able to do so in an accommodating fashion. We also believe there are significant international relations issues underlying the continued ability of U.S. companies doing business internationally to transfer key employees to the U.S. through the L-1 visa category. The Chamber will support initiatives which promote and facilitate travel to the U.S. for both business and tourism and streamline travel from secure parts of the world to the U.S., including expanding the visa waiver program and simplifying the current B-1 and B-2 visa application process.
Employment Verification Systems . A guiding principle in this area is that U.S. employers desire a stable and legal workforce and recognize that current employment verification procedures need to be improved. Coupled with other crucial aspects of immigration reform, the Chamber will continue to work with Congress on the implementation of electronic employment verification systems which, among other things, clearly preempt state laws, limit subcontractor liability, require verification of only new hires, include a phase-in timeline that addresses the needs of small business, integrate all employment verification obligations (including I-9) into one system, and recognize a safe harbor for employers acting in good faith.
Border Control. The Chamber believes a secure border is an efficient border and will work to ensure that the importance of both U.S. economic competitiveness and security are recognized when enacting and implementing border security programs. We will continue to urge Congress and the Administration to address delays, backlogs, and disruptions in our border management systems that impede the movement of legitimate business travelers and tourists across U.S. borders.
State Issues. The Chamber will oppose employment verification laws and ordinances at the state level, and other proposals at the state level related to the hire of non-citizens, that attempt to supersede federal immigration law.
Reform. We believe that reforming the nation's immigration laws should accomplish the following goals: control and secure our borders; improve employment verification systems for determining whether an employee is authorized to work in the United States; create effective and streamlined worker programs so that employers can hire immigrant workers when U.S. workers are unavailable; and provide, under certain strict qualification criteria, a pathway to legal status for undocumented workers currently in the United States.
Amy Marmer Nice is Executive Director, Immigration Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce.