S. 2691/H.R. 5744, also known as the “Securing Knowledge Innovation and Leadership Act of 2006”, or the “SKIL Bill” from its acronym and rhyme, 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 expedite processing of such visa petitions.
As of April 2007, the SKIL Bill exists as re-introduced standalone legislation in both the House (H.R.1930) and Senate (S. 1083) and have been referred to respective Judiciary Committees.
As an immediate relief to address shortage of H1B Visas Sen. Chuck Hagel introduced High-Tech Worker Relief Act (S. 1092), which is another version of SKIL pertaining just for temporary H1B Visa increase and is referred to Senate Judiciary Committee.
SKIL Act is also embedded in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (S. 2611).
Proponents of the bill claim that some of the brightest students in the world come to US universities to be educated and then end up taking their knowledge and skills with them back to their home countries or other competing nations. 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.
Proponents of the bill also claim that speeding up the process of granting green cards to foreign born highly skilled students educated in US universities could prevent companies from taking away jobs from US workers. The bill aims to allow freedom of mobility to highly skilled foreign born US educated workers in the US workforce. The freedom of mobility will eliminate situations where companies could take advantage of foreign born highly skilled workers by forcing them to work at lower than prevailing wages in return for a green card/permanent residency.
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 among 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. Discouraged workers (those who've been out of work for more than 6 months) are not tracked by the department of labor.
April 18, 2007
The “Securing Knowledge, Innovation, and Leadership Act of 2007” (“SKIL Act of 2007”) (H.R. 1930) was referred to House Committee on the Judiciary.
April 11, 2007
“High-Tech Worker Relief Act” (S. 1092) was introduced by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as a bill to temporarily increase the number of visas for certain highly skilled workers. The Senate never voted on it but was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
April 10, 2007
The “Securing Knowledge, Innovation, and Leadership Act of 2007” or the “SKIL Act of 2007” (S. 1083) was re-introduced as a bill to increase competitiveness in the United States, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). The Senate never voted on the SKIL Bill but it was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA).
June 6, 2006
The Senate passed S. 2611 by a 62-36 vote.
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 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).
“Pro” External Links for SKIL Bill Information
- 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
- An article on Immigration and Innovation from the Center for American Progress
- Testimony of Laszlo Bock Vice President, People Operations, Google, Inc. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship Refugees, Border Security, and International Law "Hearing on Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Business Community Perspectives" June 6, 2007
- RAND report on US competitiveness in Science and Technology
- a supporting article from the Eurkea Reporter