A number of companies in the semiconductor industry are grateful to Congress for getting a bill that strengthens domestic chip processing passed and off to the president’s desk. That’s a good step, but now they want Congress to start working on reforming green cards. The industry says it needs access to more highly skilled foreign workers in order to meet semiconductor demand.
They envision an overhauled green card system that, among other things, creates new exemptions that would make more foreign-born workers eligible for permanent worker status. Semiconductor companies want cap exemptions for STEM workers with master’s degrees.
Limited Green Card Approvals
As things currently stand, U.S. law caps the number of green cards issued every year. There are only limited approvals to work with. That means a lot of different things to both foreign workers and law firms like Graham Adair.
An immigrant worker without a green card must have an H-1B work visa, or a similar visa pertaining to their particular type of work. But there is no guarantee a work visa can be renewed when the time comes. A green card would obviously solve that problem. Yet until Congress overhauls the system, limits on annual green card approvals will remain. Executives in the semiconductor industry do not think that this is acceptable.
Enhancing Education at Home
Making it easier for certain types of foreign-born workers to obtain permanent resident status would make life easier on semiconductor manufacturers. And by their own admission, there may not be enough highly skilled immigrants to do all the work. So the industry is also calling for efforts to enhance education at home.
They are urging Congress to find ways to invest in STEM programs. They say the government can do more to develop strategic research and development that will help companies keep up with demand and simultaneously improve national security. Finally, the industry is hoping that America’s colleges and universities will begin developing degree programs specific to semiconductor design and manufacturing.
More Than Just Money
Look below the surface of press releases and media reports and it becomes clear that the semiconductor industry wants more than just money. The CHIPS and Science Act leverages some $280 billion to help the U.S. industry be more competitive. But government money is only as helpful as the number of skilled workers the industry can bring in.
Our current H-1B worker visa program gets the job done. But it is highly inefficient. It takes a lot of time, effort, and help from an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that foreign-born workers get their visas prior to entering the country.
An extra layer of bureaucracy is added when H-1B workers attempt to apply for green cards. Another option is to apply for citizenship, but most foreign-born workers don’t want to give up natural citizenship in order to become U.S. citizens.
Inhibiting Unnecessary Barriers
It is clear that our green card system is necessary to help control the immigration process. We understand the government’s role in preventing a large influx of green card applicants who don’t have the education, training, and skills to support themselves. But the types of workers needed within the semiconductor sector are already highly skilled. There are plenty of jobs here for them.
It is highly unlikely that green card cap issues will be taken up this year. Even next year is a long shot. But should Congress eventually decide to reform the process for obtaining a green card, at least one industry wants highly skilled workers capable of designing and manufacturing computer chips exempt from annual green card caps. They make a compelling case.