Microsoft Urges U.S. Senate to Pass ‘Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act’

Posted by Brad Smith
General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

Today, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin receiving H-1B petitions filed by employers across America looking to secure the talents of some of the world’s brightest minds.

Companies like Microsoft—who employ significant numbers of American workers and generate high-paying jobs both directly and indirectly—need to be able to meet their personnel needs with top talent to continue innovating and competing at the highest levels.

Yet even with our economy in the midst of a prolonged recovery, the annual allotment of H-1B visas is projected to be exhausted earlier than last year, and well before the end of the government’s fiscal year. This isn’t surprising, with the unemployment rate in the technology sector below 4 percent. Our economy is hungry for workers with strong educational backgrounds, especially those with degrees in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. We must continue to improve educational and professional opportunities for American workers, while keeping the door open to highly skilled talent from around the world to support the needs of U.S. businesses.

However, the availability of H-1B visas is only the beginning of the story. While the vast majority of our U.S. workforce is comprised of U.S. workers, the individuals we employ in H-1B status—educated at some of the best universities in the U.S. and around the world—are crucial to our business. We need to be able to continue their opportunities to make contributions to the U.S. economy over the long term. That is why we sponsor our foreign-born employees for green cards and invest in their futures in the U.S.

Yet our current green card system is not up to the task, with highly valued professionals spending a decade or more mired in backlogs. Government officials are warning that these backlogs will become even more severe next month, especially for individuals born in India and China. Our country’s approach to high skilled immigration must do a better job of reducing these backlogs to enable U.S. companies to retain this talent, and reap the economic benefits of their brainpower and contributions over the long term.

There are important steps that Congress can take right now to accomplish this. The House passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act in November with overwhelming and rare bipartisan consensus, 389-15. The bill would replace the discriminatory “per-country” limits on employment-based green cards with a merit-based, first-come-first-served system, but it has unfortunately stalled in the Senate. The Senate should act now and pass this important legislation. Congress should also pass legislation to help ensure that the U.S. can retain top foreign students who complete their education at U.S. universities, rather than driving them away after graduation to compete against us in other countries. 

Ensuring that high-skilled talent can make it through the door and contribute to our economy with temporary visas like the H-1B is just the first step. The ongoing access to high-skilled workers from around the world is one of the key factors enabling Microsoft to continue investing the bulk of our research and development dollars—$9.6 billion in the past year—right here in the U.S. Keeping these employees, their talent and their contributions in our economy for the long term through an effective green card system is the best way to promote a robust, job-generating, innovation-based economy for the future.

Comments (17)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow… will IT sustain ?

  2. Some Person says:

    Most H-1B and L-1 visas are issued to offshore firms like Infosys, Cognisant, and Tata.  These firms use these visas to do knowledge transfer and facilitate off-shoring of entire systems and departments.  While Microsoft may very well be using these visas to import top level PhD graduates, it is disingenuous to ignore the problem of visa abuse.

  3. Alex Nowrasteh says:

    "Visa abuse"?  Really?  The real abuse here is that Americans have to ask government permission to employ the people they want, no matter where they are from in the world.  The immigration laws are arguably the second most complex set of laws on the books.  The problem is not visa "fraud" of an enormously complex bureaucratic system, but that these restrictive anti-capitalist immigration restrictions exist in the first place.

  4. anghelo herrera says:

    the only obstacle in passing the bill HR3012 is the republicans, especially sen. grassley

  5. Immigrant says:

    What happened to work authorization for H4 spouses of high skill immigrants with H1 extension filed beyond 6yr. limit?

  6. Some Person says:

    Infosys is under criminal investigation for visa abuse.  That should tell you all you need to know about the H-1B business.  Fraudulent companies like Infosys are crowding out the Microsofts and Intels out of H-1B visas.

  7. SVEngineer says:

    Watch Dan Rather's No Thanks For Everything on Youtube and see for yourself.    The film features an ex-Microsoft employee who points out Bill Gates's Lies about the best-and-brightest.   The H-1B is all about cheap labor, exploitation, and corporate greed.

  8. Anda says:

    @SVEngineer You clearly don't know what you're talking about. I'm one of the people who would benefit the most from such legislation. I was born in a foreign country, but I graduated from a top US university. I also had a significant scholarship during college. Now I work at Microsoft and let me tell you, this is not about cheap labor and exploitation. I get payed just as much as my US citizen counterparts. On top of that, MS incurs a ton of costs with my H1-B and green card applications. Even with all the effort, it will take many years for me to get a green card. And for what? Would it be better for me to go back to my home country, especially after the US has invested so much (around 100k) in my training and education?

  9. Quackula says:

    Maybe when Microsoft hire's me for my technical background, I will agree with hiring more H1-B's. I am still waiting for an interview and I am an American. I guess I am too expensive.

  10. icd says:

    Brad, the "Fairness" act would be beneficial for Indian and Chinese applicants, but hurts every other applicant since all other categories would retrogress. Until it is no longer the case that all visas are being exhausted every year – which will continue being true for years to come – this bill will have no effect on the overall backlog. For every Indian or Chinese moving up ahead in the queue, there is another applicant who will instead have to wait a few more years. For example, EB3 ROW is also severely retrogressed (6 years), and will be only hurt by this bill (expected retrogression is at least 2 years if this bill passes).

    The "fairness" of the act is relative. While, on one hand, employment visas and green cards should really be merit-based*, on the other it is not fair for everybody else to be hurt by a rule change while the game is in progress. Every immigrant has made serious life decisions knowing the kind of wait that is involved and the potential risks, based on existing laws; now, suddenly, non-Indian and non-Chinese applicants will see their decisions thrown in the bin.

    Being EB3 ROW, I am saddened to see Microsoft support this bill. While I understand the business incentive – it will appease Indian and Chinese employees, who are probably a big portion of Microsoft's green card applicants, I am nevertheless disappointed that Microsoft chooses to support a bill which actively hurts a portion of its employees. Including me.

    Thank you for your time.

    * P.S. Another point to consider is that merit-based employment is an ideal that cannot be achieved in practice. How likely is it that there will be a mostly Indian (or mostly Russian, for that matter) team – at Microsoft or any other company? Yet it does happen, and is not a rare occurrence either. The current per-country limits serve to limit this kind of nepotism from corrupting the system and clogging it for everybody else.

  11. Some Person says:

    Another case of "Mass Visa Fraud" by yet another offshoring firm just released today:…/_Massive_visa_fraud_alleged_in_lawsuit_against_Indian_firm

  12. MSFT-guy says:

    Folks, Microsoft doesn't engage in any sort of visa fraud, they aren't the ones abusing the system. The bill Brad mentions has nothing to do with H1B. It is about people that already have jobs applying for permanent residency.

    True, it doesn't eliminate the backlog, but it creates a single queue formed in order of first come, first serve. This will put us all on the same boat instead of segmenting us by country of origin which makes no sense whatsoever.

    H1B doesn't have a per-country quota, Microsoft doesn't have a per-country quota, why do employment-based green cards?

  13. Rob says:

    I think that there should always be fairness afford to all people of all races, color or creed. We cannot as fellow American's discriminate.

    We must set the right example for the rest of the world to follow.

    P.S.  I was wondering if Microsoft still had James Verse working in its settle office? Just curious since we played football together.

  14. Rob says:

    I'd sure love to work for Microsoft.

  15. Fredy says:

    microsoft is too cheap to hire employee's, why is the US investing in Anda it is stupid and illegal, they are robbing the middle class

  16. Freddy says:

    @MSFT-guy you are dead wrong microsoft is fraud!, last time Bill Gates lied about the visa they laid of 5,000 the next week, America is bloated, let MSFT move to india where they belong

  17. Joe says:

    HR3012 actually does absolutely nothing to easy the backlog.

    It only shuffles numbers around, taking from one group of people waiting for a Greencard to give to another group.

    HR3012 is therefore fundamentally misguided.

    If Microsoft wants to help immigrants, then Microsoft should lobby for increasing the number of Greencards available. Anything else is just dishonest.

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