An Analysis of President Obama’s Proposal for Immigration Reform

As many of our readers are aware, President Obama has recently begun discussing his vision for immigration reform and has started a national debate on what our nation’s immigration policy should look like in future.  The media has focused mainly on two of the more controversial provisions in his plan: border security, and a pathway to citizenship for the over 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the United States.  While these two issues are vitally important to any national debate regarding immigration reform, there are several provisions of President Obama’s proposal that have not received much coverage by the media, and we believe that some of these provisions would be of high interest to our readers.

One of the boldest proposals in President Obama’s immigration plan is to automatically give a green card to PhD and some Masters Degree students who graduate from an American university with a diploma in the Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) fields.  President Obama proposes “stapling a green card” to these STEM diplomas to entice these highly-educated individuals to stay and contribute to the American economy.  If included in the final immigration legislation, this provision would allow recent PhD and Masters Degree graduates to freely work for American employers without the need to worry about OPT, H1B, or green card sponsorship.

Another groundbreaking idea contained in President Obama’s proposal is a new visa category referred to as a “Start-Up Visa”.  This would allow United States investors to finance foreign entrepreneurs to come over to the United States to start their own businesses to create jobs for American workers.  This new visa type would give American venture capitalists access to innovative business ideas from around the world, and it would allow foreign entrepreneurs to come to the United States to start up their businesses, implement their new ideas, and enhance the overall economy.

President Obama’s immigration proposal also contemplates changes to the current family-based and employment-based immigration systems.  First, he would exempt all immediate relatives of United States citizens from any annual caps and allow for immediate adjudication of their green card applications without any visa wait times.  Second, he would change the employment-based categories and per-country caps to allow highly-skilled immigrants to receive their green cards on an expedited basis.   While the exact details on how this would work have not been finalized yet, any modification to the per-country cap limitation to favor highly-skilled immigrants would be welcome news for intending high-skilled immigrants from countries such as China or India.

Overall, President Obama’s proposal for immigration reform contains a number of innovative ideas that would make it much easier for deserving immigrants to immigrate to the United States.  Not only will these provisions benefit new immigrants, but the American economy would benefit as well from the skilled workers and entrepreneurs that these new provisions would attract.  While it is likely that any final immigration legislation would differ significantly from President Obama’s current proposal, we applaud the president for opening the immigration debate with several novel ideas that are an excellent starting point for the national discussion on comprehensive immigration reform.

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