The American Institute of CPAs worked closely with key senators to expand the number of accounting students with advanced accounting degrees eligible for H-1B visas in a bid to add accounting to the math definition of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in the immigration reform bill that was considered by the Senate. However, because of the politically charged nature of the overall immigration debate, no STEM-related amendments were included in the legislation given Senate approval on June 27, 2013.
“CPA firms throughout the United States need specialized skills to serve their clients and the public interest,” said AICPA President and CEO Barry C. Melancon, CPA, CGMA. “The ability to move people with these skill sets across international borders using H-1B visas allows CPA firms to provide the appropriate skill sets to meet their clients’ needs. We saw the immigration bill as an opportunity to address this important issue, especially due to the increased demand for accountants and auditors on a global basis.”
Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio was quick to help in this endeavor by filing an amendment to the immigration bill and by advocating for its inclusion with Senate leaders.
Several prominent and influential senators assisted by joining as cosponsors of Senator Brown’s amendment. Home state CPA society support encouraged the senators who cosponsored the amendment to sign on as cosponsors. The cosponsors were Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming (an accountant and a member of the Congressional CPA and Accountants Caucus), Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Senator Jon Tester of Montana, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
More than two-thirds of state CPA societies wrote letters to their state’s senators in support of the amendment. Their work was critical in building support for the amendment.
Senator Klobuchar spoke on behalf of adding accounting to STEM during Judiciary Committee hearings and read the letter from the Minnesota Society of CPAs supporting the amendment into the record.
Senators filed 550 amendments to the bill, but only ten were brought up for votes, and none of those ten addressed STEM.
The AICPA will continue to seek legislative opportunities to expand the number of advanced accounting students eligible for H-1B visas. Furthermore, the profession’s Senate advocates will be ready to assist again once the House passes its version of immigration reform legislation – likely in smaller, piecemeal bills – and meets with the Senate to hammer out the differences between the two bills.