Congress Passes the Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act

New York, NY—(September 21, 2022)—This week Congress passed the Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act.

This bipartisan legislation calls on the U.S. Department of Labor to study systemic barriers to employment that impact immigrants and refugees who hold credentials obtained in another country, and to issue recommendations for reform. The bill now heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

This legislation will strengthen the workforce by making progress to ensure immigrant and refugee workers’ economic mobility. At least two million college-educated immigrants and refugees are currently unemployed or underemployed in the United States; 60 percent hold credentials earned in another country, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act seeks to study the factors driving this underemployment, including limited recognition of credentials, barriers to occupational licensing, and uneven access to adult education and workforce development programs.

“As the U.S. welcomes people seeking safety from around the world and faces labor shortages in critical sectors like health care, now is the time to ensure that everyone can reach their educational and career goals in the U.S. This historic legislation will catalyze policy reforms to promote a more equitable and inclusive economy,” said Esther Benjamin, CEO and Executive Director of World Education Services (WES). “WES is proud to have worked with our partners to support the passage of the Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act.”

As part of the Untapped Talent campaign coordinated by IMPRINT, a coalition based at WES, more than 200 institutions representing the non-profit, higher education, philanthropic, and government sectors came together to support this legislation.

“I am a U.S. citizen. I spent 12 years of my life receiving an excellent education and dedicated myself after graduation to serving people as a physician and doing research as a scientist. Yet, my training, skills, and experience have been undervalued in the U.S.,” said Lubab Al-Quraishi, a delegate to Refugee Congress. “There are hundreds of thousands of people like me—immigrants and refugees with international education, training, and experience—who are ready to use our credentials and get to work in our communities across the U.S. It’s time for internationally trained immigrants and refugees to be treated with dignity and have fair access to work opportunities in the U.S.”

“Three years ago, I heard from Interfaith Works of Central New York about immigrants in our community who have valuable professional backgrounds but consistently experience underemployment or unemployment due to arbitrary barriers,” said Rep. John Katko, (NY24), lead sponsor of the bill in the House. “This trend puts the American Dream out of reach for countless families and has a detrimental impact on our economy, costing billions of dollars in unrealized wages each year. That’s why I was proud to introduce the Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act, and I am excited to see it pass the House and head to the President’s desk. This bill will enable new Americans to fully utilize their skillsets and is especially important in the midst of a nationwide workforce crisis.”

“With two decades of experience in supporting immigrants and refugees in rejoining their careers in the U.S., we understand the potential of internationally trained workers to contribute to local workforces, the complexity of the systemic barriers that keep them from doing so, and the promise of this legislation to catalyze long-needed federal action on this issue,” said Jina Krause-Vilmar, President and CEO of Upwardly Global. “As we support thousands of Afghan and Ukrainian newcomers with career coaching, we see the urgency of advancing this critical study and implementing long-needed reform.”

“The bipartisan passage of the Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act highlights the enormous potential for immigrants and refugees to strengthen the American workforce and bolster the economy. More than 2 million college-educated immigrants in the United States are unemployed, or underemployed in jobs that fail to draw on their education and expertise, according to the Migration Policy Institute. This bill is a first step toward addressing the barriers these immigrants and their would-be employers face,” said Dan Kosten, Assistant Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at the National Immigration Forum.

Watch a recording of the press conference, held on 9/21/2022.

About World Education Services (WES):

World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. For more than 45 years, WES has set the standard of excellence in the field of international academic credential evaluation. Through WES Global Talent Bridge, the organization joins with institutional partners, community-based organizations, and policymakers to help immigrants and refugees who hold international credentials fully utilize their talents and education to achieve their academic and professional goals. Through its grantmaking, impact investing, and partnerships, the WES Mariam Assefa Fund seeks to advance economic and social inclusion for immigrants and refugees.

About the IMPRINT Coalition:

Based at WES, the IMPRINT Coalition advances public policy and promising models that support the economic inclusion of immigrants and refugees who hold international credentials in the U.S. Based at WES, the IMPRINT Coalition advances public policy and promising models that support immigrants and refugees who hold credentials earned abroad. The IMPRINT Coalition envisions a United States that values the education, skills, and experience of immigrants and refugees and ensures equitable access to pathways for success. In September 2021, the IMPRINT Coalition launched the #UntappedTalent: Inclusive Economies for All campaign to promote policies that offer opportunity so that everyone has a fairer chance of reaching their educational and career goals. Learn more about the #UntappedTalent campaign.

About the National Immigration Forum:
Founded in 1982, the National Immigration Forum (the Forum) is a nonpartisan advocacy organization that builds trusted relationships to create a shared vision for immigration. The Forum works across the political spectrum to convene different perspectives, bring new allies into the conversation, and advance constructive and compassionate immigration policies that serve America’s interests.

About Upwardly Global:
Upwardly Global is a national nonprofit whose mission is to eliminate employment barriers for immigrant and refugee professionals and advance the inclusion of their skills into the U.S. economy.