Group urges US Congress to take action on green cards

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In a letter to the United States Congress, Compete America (CA), a group that advocates less-stringent US immigration rules for highly skilled foreign labor, urged the government to take action on reforming the current green card system.

"As a coalition representing corporations, trade associations, and educators, we believe immediate reform to our broken H-1B visa and employment-based green card systems is essential to maintaining America's competitive edge in the 21st century," the letter stated.

According to CA, over 133,000 H-1B visa applications were submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for fiscal year 2008 in one day. However, the current cap is set at 65,000.

"Highly-educated foreign individuals who did not receive a visa number were left to pin their hopes on a subsequent lottery process," the letter continued.

CA is also concerned with the "outdated" employment-based green card system, stating that the program lacks an adequate number of green cards to support the demand, with individuals forced to wait five years or more for an employment-based green card.

CA said that currently, the US can't attract the best and brightest and foreign competitors are set to take advantage of this -- the European Union, in particular.

"The European Union recently announced the introduction of the 'blue card,' a temporary work visa for highly educated foreign professionals," the letter said. "The new 'blue card' will allow all highly educated individuals to apply for a two-year visa, will be targeted to recruit foreign-born graduates of leading US universities and colleges, and will offer a streamlined 1-3 month application process."

The blue card, a proposal introduced by the European Commission, is still under debate among the 27 nations of the EU. While a number of nations approve of the measure, some member nations are keeping it at arms length. However, it's clear that the EU needs to fix the situation of an aging workforce and labor shortages in key sectors.

"The blue card sends a clear message to those languishing within the US visa system – EU nations value your innovative and entrepreneurial minds and want you to live, work and contribute economically to their countries," CA said.

"Regrettably, the United States is sending the opposite message."