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House Passes COMPETES Act with Immigration Provisions

Tristan North - Feb 08 2022
Published in: Public Policy
Bill to improve U.S. global competitiveness gets passed

On 4 February, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “America Creating Opportunity for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength Act of 2022” (America COMPETES Act) by a vote of 222 to 210. The Bill is intended to improve the global economic competitiveness of the U.S. H.R. 4521 (Bio-Economy and Research Development Act). Included provisions will create a new entrepreneur and start-up business visa category, exempt STEM visas from annual limits, and establish a new E-4 visa for foreign nationals from South Korea.

The details of the primary policy changes on immigration of interest to workforce mobility are as follows:

New “W” Visa Category

The new “W’ category amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to create three classifications of nonimmigrant visas:

W-1 for certain entrepreneurs

W-2  for essential employees of start-up businesses

(W-3) for immediate family members of holders of  W-1 and W-2 visas

If certain conditions are met, W-1 visa holder would be for an initial period of 3 years followed by an extension of another three years then for two one-year periods, W-2 visa holders will be authorized for up to six years, and spouses and immediate family members of W-1 and W-2 visa holders, and (W-3 visa holders) would be eligible for employment in the U.S for the employment duration of the family member with a W-2 or W-3 visa.

The language of the provision is from the “Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment Act of 2021” (LIKE Act) (H.R. 4681) by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. – is this important?

STEM Green Card Limit Exemptions

The bill also exempts foreign nationals with a Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from the U.S. or foreign equivalent university or college and their family members’ annual green card limit caps. The language would also add health professions and those in a critical industry to the national or economic security of the U.S. to the definition of a Ph.D. in STEM for purposes of the exemption.

South Korea

The Bill also creates a new E-4 classification of nonimmigrant visa available to foreign nationals from South Korea to perform services in a specialty occupation. The annual issue limit is 15,000.

The U.S. Senate and the House will hold a conference committee to work out the differences between the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521) and a similar bill, the “United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (S. 1260), which the Senate passed by a vote of 68 to 32 on 8 June 2021. The Senate vote on S. 1260 was bipartisan, whereas the House vote on H.R. 4521 was almost exclusively along party lines setting up potentially contentious negotiations for one uniform bill.