The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigration Act
Sens. Schumer, Brown Lobby for Thousands More Irish Guest Workers
This last week, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Scott Brown (R-MA) have been quietly lobbying their Senate colleagues to pass an amended version of S.1983, legislation that would bring in thousands of guest workers from Ireland. The legislation, called the “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act,” would expand the E-3 visa program to admit at least 10,500 Irish guest workers annually, PLUS an unlimited number of visas for spouses and children of E-3 visa holders.
Congress created the E-3 visa program under the 2005 REAL ID Act. It is exclusively for Australian nationals who seek a nonimmigrant visa to come to the U.S. to work in a specialty occupation. (See Pub. L. No. 109-13 § 501(a)) The current annual cap for E-3 visas is 10,500, and there is no cap on the number of derivative visas handed out to the spouses and children (up to age 21) of E-3 visa holders. (INA § 214(g)(11)) While touted by some as a visa for “high-skilled” workers, the threshold for qualifying for it is low. Federal regulations define “specialty occupation” to require only a Bachelor’s degree-or its equivalent-in a broad variety of fields ranging from architecture and the social sciences to accounting. (8 C.F.R. 214.2(h)(4)(ii))
The amended version of S.1983 allows an additional 10,500 E-3 guest worker visas to be given solely to Irish nationals. (INA § 101(a)(15)(E)(iii); INA § 214(g)(11)) However, rather than holding Irish nationals to the same “specialty occupation” standard as the Australians, the amended version of S.1983 would lower the skill standard even further by only requiring Irish recipients of the E-3 visa to have only two years of work experience in a particular field, OR to have obtained a high school diploma or its equivalent.
In addition to importing more guest workers, the amended version of S.1983 also incorporates H.R. 3012. That bill eliminates the current per-country cap of seven percent for employment-based visas and increases the current family-based cap from seven to 15 percent. (INA § 202(a)(2)) (For more information on H.R. 3012, see FAIR’s Legislative Update, Dec. 5, 2011)
Overall, S.1983 represents poor immigration policy on several levels. By admitting an additional 10,500 individuals into the country (even more with an unlimited number of spouses and children), it would increase immigration-and competition for scarce jobs-at a time when there are already 13 million unemployed Americans seeking jobs. Further exacerbating this problem, the bill lacks a requirement that employers seek legal U.S. workers before they can hire an E-3 visa holder and lowers the skill-set required to gain entry into the U.S. Finally, the amended version of S.1983 carves out a special rule for members of a single nationality, creating a slippery slope in which representatives from every country around the world will seek similar preferential treatment.