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Business owners: Immigration reform is a good idea

Saturday, February 14, 2015

For nearly as long as the notion of immigration reform has been around, business owners have had an opinion on the topic. Many facets of any potential reform would have an impact on American business: from how it affects employment to economic stimulus and possible reductions in compliance paperwork.

After years of stagnation in Congress, immigration reform has shifted into – albeit, slow – motion with President Obama’s executive action aimed at immigration. While the machinations of Congress may still have a chilling effect on any real change, the American business community stands by to see what real government actions will derive from the President’s move. The potential for improving the way Americans do business is great, but the real effects still remain to be seen.

A cornerstone provision of the executive action is the deferred action programs that would result in about 4.4 million more people being temporarily allowed to stay in the U.S. and given temporary work authorization. Because the threat of deportation will largely subside, these millions of may emerge from the shadows and become engaged members of our economy.

The President’s immigration reform plan also attempts to directly address several parts of employment-based immigration systems in the U.S. that are universally agreed to be broken. Current provisions can sometimes require a worker to stay in the same job for the duration of the visa. If an employee is offered a new job or a promotion, he or she may be forced to proverbially go to “the back of the line” of an already bottlenecked application process.

The reform proposes a streamlined process and allows an employee to get a promotion without losing his or her place in line for the visa.
It also allows for certain spouses of employees waiting in line to get interim work authorization. Further, highly restrictive interpretations of adjudicating intracompany transfer visas would also be modernized to allow for an easier transfer of foreign employees at companies with offices in the U.S.
Such reform to the documentation process would add more workers to the labor pool and allow businesses to find, keep and promote the best, high-skilled employees.

This is quite important for companies that need specialized, high-skilled employees, such as the tech industry, which is constantly seeking qualified scientific and IT employees. Outside the umbrella of reform, an entrepreneur visa in the U.S. can sometimes require business owners to give control of their company away to a board — usually an unattractive requirement to those who start their own companies. Reform would help foreign entrepreneurs to start enterprises, under their own control, in the U.S.

The impact of such reform should result in an increase in investment money, jobs and high-level innovation. As Congress begins its session, the debate over immigration reform is going to continue and will likely intensify. But as it does, it’s important to consider its impact on the U.S. economic community.

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