Biden-Harris Administration, House Democrats working to attract more foreign students, workers for American technology jobs

American tech workers not happy, say policy change “destroys the career prospects of young American graduates”

By Allen D. Payton

President Biden and Vice President Harris issued a statement on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, announcing actions and policy changes their administration is taking to make it easier to attract foreign scholars, students, researchers, and experts to ultimately fill American technology jobs. In addition, on Tuesday, Biden issued a statement announcing his support for the America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 3593).

In addition, according to an announcement issued today by the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor, tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 28, the Biden administration will make 20,000 additional temporary nonfarm, H2-B work visas available for hiring through March, delivering on a demand from business groups.

“The supplemental H-2B visa allocation consists of 13,500 visas available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa, or were otherwise granted H-2B status, during one of the last three fiscal years. The remaining 6,500 visas, which are exempt from the returning worker requirement, are reserved for nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras,” the joint statement reads. “The H-2B program permits employers to temporarily hire noncitizens to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States.”

Also, according to a Bloomberg Law article, published yesterday, Democrats have included a new entrepreneur visa in a House bill.

“Nonimmigrant visas for owners and key employees of start-ups as well as their family members and other STEM-boosting measures are part of legislation introduced by Democratic House leaders this week. The Senate last year passed its own version of the legislation, which President Joe Biden’s administration has identified as a key priority,” the article reads. “The bill, which also exempts immigrants with doctorates in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics fields from annual green card caps, is part of a broader legislative package released Tuesday that seeks to strengthen U.S. competitiveness with China in research and development.”

American Tech Workers Not Happy

But an organization of American technology workers, U.S. Tech Workers, which describes itself as a “nonprofit representing the voices of American workers harmed by the H-1B visa program and pushing Congress for reforms to protect workers”, are not happy with the Administration’s policies nor the Democrats’ legislation.

In a post on the group’s Twitter feed on Monday, Jan. 24, they wrote, “employers lobbied the US government for the ability to hire foreign workers via guest worker visa programs so they could rig the free-market in their favor.”

The group is also opposed to the changes in the H-2B visa and OPT programs. They said the changes will encourage companies to discriminate against American job applicants.

“This is exactly the kind of policy that destroys the career prospects of young American graduates,” the group posted on their Twitter feed. “USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) is incentivizing employers to discriminate against US grads because the OPT program provides employers who hire foreign students: – FICA tax exemptions – No wage standards.”

An article on the group’s website written by Joe Guzzardi, a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who writes about immigration issues, and joined Progressives for Immigration Reform in 2018, reads, “STEM OPT’s expansion…is significant since the thousands of new foreign-born workers entering the labor pool will adversely affect employed U.S. tech workers or recent U.S. STEM graduates whose prospective careers could be jeopardized.”

In addition, the U.S. Tech Workers tweeted, “Exempting a certain category of foreign workers counting towards numerical Green Card caps is a deceptive & crafty tactic of INCREASING overall immigration numbers. It basically means there’s an unlimited supply of GCs for PhDs & their family (spouse/kids).”

In another tweet about Biden’s statement on the America COMPETES ACT of 2022, the U.S. Tech Workers wrote, “House version of America COMPETES Act of 2022 sneakingly adds immigration provisions: – Exempts PhD foreign students & their family from counting towards Green Card cap – Creates new visas for entrepreneurs.”

According to a 2021 Bloomberg article, “Businesses that hire foreign students are exempt from paying Medicare and Social Security taxes, amounting to a discount of 7.65%.”

Biden-Harris Foreign STEM Talent Statement

The statement from the White House reads as follows:

FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Actions to Attract STEM Talent and Strengthen our Economy and Competitiveness

JANUARY 21, 2022

“The Biden-Harris Administration believes that one of America’s greatest strengths is our ability to attract global talent to strengthen our economy and technological competitiveness, and benefit working people and communities all across the country.

In the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – fields that are critical to the prosperity, security, and health of our Nation – our history is filled with examples of how America’s ability to attract global talent has spurred path-breaking innovation. This innovation has led to the creation of new jobs, new industries, and new opportunities for Americans across the United States. Our commitment as a nation to welcoming new talent has long provided America with a global competitive advantage, and we must continue to lead in this effort.

Today, the Departments of State and Homeland Security are announcing new actions to advance predictability and clarity for pathways for international STEM scholars, students, researchers, and experts to contribute to innovation and job creation efforts across America. These actions will allow international STEM talent to continue to make meaningful contributions to America’s scholarly, research and development, and innovation communities.

These announcements build on the Biden Administration’s efforts to remove barriers to legal immigration, such as under Executive Order 14012, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, and to promote educational exchange, such as under the recent Joint Statement of Principles in Support of International Education issued by Secretaries Blinken and Cardona.

Today’s agency announcements include:

  • The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is announcing an “Early Career STEM Research Initiative,” to facilitate non-immigrant BridgeUSA exchange visitors coming to the United States to engage in STEM research through research, training or educational exchange visitor programs with host organizations, including businesses. ECA is also announcing new guidance that will facilitate additional academic training for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields on the J-1 visa for periods of up to 36 months.
  • Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas is announcing that 22 new fields of study are now included in the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The program permits F-1 students earning Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorates in certain STEM fields to remain in the United States for up to 36 months to complete Optional Practical Training after earning their degrees. Information on the new fields of study will be communicated to schools and students in a forthcoming Federal Register notice. The added fields of study are primarily new multidisciplinary or emerging fields, and are critical in attracting talent to support U.S. economic growth and technological competitiveness.
  • DHS is issuing an update to its policy manual related to “extraordinary ability” (O-1A) nonimmigrant status regarding what evidence may satisfy the O-1A evidentiary criteria.
  • O-1A nonimmigrant status is available to persons of extraordinary ability in the fields of science, business, education, or athletics. In this update, DHS is clarifying how it determines eligibility for immigrants of extraordinary abilities, such as PHD holders, in the science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields.
  • The new update provides examples of evidence that may satisfy the O-1A evidentiary criteria and discusses considerations that are relevant to evaluating such evidence, with a focus on the highly technical nature of STEM fields and the complexity of the evidence often submitted.
  • The update also emphasizes that, if a petitioner demonstrates that a particular criterion does not readily apply to their occupation, they may submit evidence that is of comparable significance to that criterion to establish sustained acclaim and recognition. Additionally, it provides examples of possible comparable evidence that may be submitted in support of petitions for beneficiaries working in STEM fields.
  • With respect to immigration, DHS is issuing an update to its policy manual on how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a DHS component, adjudicates national interest waivers for certain immigrants with exceptional abilities in their field of work.
    • The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that an employer can file an immigrant petition for a person of exceptional ability or a member of the professions with an advanced degree. The INA provides that USCIS may waive a job offer requirement, allowing immigrants whose work is in the national interest to petition for themselves, without an employer.
    • The USCIS policy update clarifies how the national interest waiver can be used for persons with advanced degrees in STEM fields and entrepreneurs, as well as the significance of letters from governmental and quasi-governmental entities. This update will promote efficient and effective benefit processing as USCIS reviews requests for national interest waivers. This effort is consistent with the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities to restore faith in the legal immigration system.

Biden Statement on America COMPETES Act of 2022

Following is the statement by the President Biden on the America COMPETES ACT of 2022 issued on Tuesday:

Statement by President Biden on the America COMPETES Act of 2022

JANUARY 25, 2022

The House took an important step forward today in advancing legislation that will make our supply chains stronger and reinvigorate the innovation engine of our economy to outcompete China and the rest of the world for decades to come.

The proposals laid out by the House and Senate represent the sort of transformational investments in our industrial base and research and development that helped power the United States to lead the global economy in the 20th century and expand opportunity for middle class families. They’ll help bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, and they’re squarely focused on easing the sort of supply chain bottlenecks like semiconductors that have led to higher prices for the middle class. Building on the historic investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that I signed last year – and on signs of progress like last week’s Intel announcement and today’s GM announcement – comprehensive competitiveness legislation will power our economy to create good-paying jobs for all Americans, no matter where you live or whether you have a college degree, and will help tackle the climate crisis.

I’m heartened by Congress’ bipartisan work so far, and its commitment to quick action to get this to my desk as soon as possible. Together, we have an opportunity to show China and the rest of the world that the 21st century will be the American century – forged by the ingenuity and hard work of our innovators, workers, and businesses.”

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