Posted by Karen Jones
Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, HR Legal, Microsoft

Our country’s economic strength relies in significant part on the contributions of the best and the brightest talent from around the world. At Microsoft, we see this every day through the great work of our foreign national employees, who contribute to our growth and success by driving technological innovation and development in all of our product and service offerings. As we’ve said before, in a world where, increasingly, jobs follow talent, high-skilled immigration can create more American jobs, and our immigration laws must be reformed to allow American companies to attract and retain the global talent we need to help rebuild our economy. 

While we wait for Congress to address some of the key structural issues with our immigration system—such as ongoing green card backlogs—there are administrative reforms and procedural approaches that can substantially improve the experience of foreign nationals making high-value contributions to our economy.

Yesterday, Microsoft hosted an employer roundtable discussion with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas to address these types of improvements. The discussion included representatives from major regional employers in a variety of industries, such as Alstom Grid, Amazon, Boeing, Clearwire, Expedia, Fluke Networks, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Holland America Line, RealNetworks, Starbucks and T-Mobile.

Microsoft’s Karen Jones, vice president and deputy general counsel, HR legal, greeting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas before a roundtable discussion on Dec. 14th with Pacific Northwest companies on Microsoft’s campus.

We were very fortunate that Director Mayorkas and his team were able to participate in the roundtable discussion. The Director’s leadership at USCIS continues to be defined by his unprecedented level of engagement with employers and stakeholders on these types of issues, and his willingness to listen to and partner with stakeholders in developing effective solutions.

The roundtable provided a valuable opportunity for the Director to hear directly from companies about the challenges they face with the immigration process, and to exchange ideas about how to address these challenges. We discussed the challenges all of us are experiencing associated with extraordinary backlogs in green card availability, the annual cap for H-1B visas and L-1 visa petition processing, to name just a few, and shared ideas for ways to address these issues. For example USCIS could provide greater clarity and consistency on criteria for L1-B visa petitions, speed up processing of employment authorization for spouses, expand the availability of premium processing, and streamline the process for issuing reentry permits. In many cases, the discussion underscored the urgency of implementing changes that USCIS is already considering. In other cases, it raised new ideas that Director Mayorkas agreed to consider.

While we recognize that the solutions to many of these challenges are neither quick nor easy, we are optimistic about the level of commitment at the USCIS to address the most significant concerns. We look forward to continuing to tackle these issues together and to ensure that our immigration system allows our country’s economy to benefit from the contributions of talented people from around the world.