SKIL Act of 2007
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The Securing Knowledge Innovation and Leadership Act, or the SKIL Bill, is targeted at increasing legal immigration of scientific, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers into the United States by increasing the quotas on the H-1B visa, eliminating green card caps for certain advanced degree holders, and streamlining the processing of employment-based green cards.
As of April 2007, both versions of the SKIL Bill were referred to their respective Judiciary Committees.
The High-Tech Worker Relief Act (S.1092) was introduced by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as a bill to temporarily increase the number of visas for certain highly skilled workers. The Senate never voted on the it but was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
The SKIL Bill is targeted at increasing legal immigration of scientific, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers into the United States by increasing the quotas on the H-1B visa, eliminating green card caps for certain advanced degree holders, and streamlining the processing of employment-based green cards. A summary of changes to each of these is:
H-1B Visa: The bill increases the annual cap of 65,000 immigrants to 115,000, automatically increasing the cap by 20 percent each year the limit is reached. It also creates a new exemption to the cap for anyone who has an "advanced degree in science, technology, engineering, or math" from a foreign university.
Green Card Caps: Sponsored by their employers, workers who earned advanced degrees from accredited U.S. universities will be exempt from the numerical limit.
Streamlining Green Card Processing: The bill establishes a pre-certification procedure that is designed to eliminate duplicate documentation of the employer that is common to multiple petitions. It also provides employers with an option to expedited processing of such visa petitions.
Criticisms and commendations
Opponents claim that industry is primarily motivated by desire for lower wages. They make the point that if there were a shortage of skilled workers, real wages would be up and unemployment would be down, neither of which is the case.
Opponents also claim that this bill would cause an unprecedented flooding of the labor market, as skilled Americans and residents would be displaced in their jobs by immigrants from the developing world who are willing to work at below-market wages in return for permanent residence or US citizenship.
Opponents also point out that the unemployment rate in engineers with degrees over 45 years old might be as high as 80% based on informal phone surveys. The average length of unemployment mentioned in the phone survey was 3 years of unemployment. Discouraged workers (out of work more than 6 months) are not tracked by the department of labor.
Proponents of the claim that the most intelligent workers in the world come here to be educated and then end up taking their knowledge and skills with them back to their home countries. They claim that there are not enough skilled workers to fulfill requirements and that a severe shortage looms, threatening US leadership in technical fields. Industry claims their gain is access to a larger skilled workforce. Academia maintains a larger pool of potential students in technical fields.
The SKIL Bill was introduced as S. 2691/ H. R. 5744 in the 109th Congress.
April 7, 2006
The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (S. 2611) was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA). At this time S. 2611 didn't contain increases to H-1B but it did introduce a guest worker program for unskilled workers.
May 2, 2006
The “Securing Knowledge, Innovation, and Leadership Act of 2006” or the “SKIL Act of 2006” (S. 2691) was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). The Senate never voted on the SKIL Bill but it was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA).
May 25, 2006
The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (S. 2611) was amended to include the SKIL Bill in what was called the “Manager's Amendment to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006” The SKIL Act was inserted into Subtitle B within S. 2611.
June 6, 2006
The Senate passed S. 2611 by a 62-36 vote.
June 29, 2006
The “Securing Knowledge, Innovation, and Leadership Act of 2006” or the “SKIL Act of 2006” (H.R. 5744) was introduced in the House by Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ).
The SKIL Act was also embedded in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006.
Articles and resources
External articles in support of the SKIL Bill
- Sen. Cornyn's Bill Summary
- Bill Gates: U.S. Senate Committee Hearing on Strengthening American Competitiveness
- Council of Graduate Schools' Letter to Sen. Cornyn
- American Immigration Lawyers Association
- Information Technology Association of America
- Immigration Voice