By Peter Muller, director of Government Relations for IntelToday, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced the Immigration Driving Entrepreneurship In America (IDEA) Act of 2011. Intel supports this bill and commends Rep. Lofgren for addressing the important issue of high-skilled immigration reform. The IDEA Act would make it easier for foreign-born students who graduate with advanced degrees from U.S. universities to obtain work visas, known as green cards. It would also reduce the backlog of people waiting for permanent visas – including many Intel employees who currently work under more-restrictive temporary visas. Since Intel does 80% of its Research and Development in the United States, this is a critical issue for us. We first seek to hire U.S. citizens for U.S. jobs. But where we have skill shortages, we need to be able to hire students from the top U.S. universities – no matter where they were born. We rely on the ability to hire the best talent to innovate, to be competitive in the global marketplace and to manage our business. Under the current visa system, foreign born employees hired to work permanently in the United States must secure some form of a visa – generally an H-1B visa. While this visa designation permits an employee to work in the United States it impedes that employee’s ability to advance in the company, restricts the employee’s spouse from working and otherwise limits the options available to the employee. Not only is this system difficult for the employee, but it makes working in a U.S. Intel facility less attractive to many of the people we want to hire. Currently, some Intel employees are left waiting for as many as 10 years for green cards because not enough permanent-residency visas are available. As a high tech company in a global innovation race and an employer proud of being a great place to work, this is unacceptable. It is imperative that employees receive permanent resident status in a timely manner. The IDEA Act calls for permanent residence visas to be awarded to foreign born students who graduate with an advanced degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from a U.S. university, if that person has a relevant job offer from a U.S. company. It further reduces the green card backlog by recapturing visas that were issued in previous years in other categories but were never used. And it eliminates arbitrary caps in the current system that restricts the number of employment based visas that can be awarded to citizens of any one country in a given year. Like any legislation, there are some provisions of the bill that Intel would like to continue to address with Rep. Lofgren as the legislative process moves forward. We applaud the work the Rep. Lofgren has done to address high-skilled immigration and encourage Congress to pass this needed reform. Encouraging the best and brightest minds to work in and for America will help secure our economic recovery and innovation leadership, and ensure the creation of quality U.S. jobs.