Increase H-1B visa numbers for skilled workers
Posted on June 4, 2012
On April 2, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services opened applications for the coveted H-1B visas. H-1B status allows companies to sponsor immigrants with specialized skills for a set number of years. The government has received 42,000 requests so far, a number that far outpaces last year and makes it likely that the entire year’s quota of 65,000 applicants will be filled by June. Congress should quickly increase the quota. We have every economic incentive to keep recent graduates and welcome new immigrants that companies, especially those in tech and innovation, want here.
The tense national immigration debate has focused heavily on the question of illegal entry into the United States — and far too little on the continuing need to actively recruit and retain immigrants with key skills. American universities are a major advantage in the global race for science, technology, and engineering expertise. Yet immigrants are too often educated here but then forced to leave. When that happens, the United States is deprived of future companies like Intel, eBay, and Google, all of which counted immigrants among their founders. And if talented foreigners don’t stay here, they will go to countries like Australia or Canada that have policies in place that support their ingenuity. High-skilled immigrants constitute 67 percent of those countries immigrant pool in 2011; they constitute just 13 percent in ours.
There are other challenges to the H-1B process, including the fact it sets quotas per country regardless of its size and that it may be being utilized to circumvent other visa programs. There is also an opportunity to limit the category of “skilled” workers, which now defines fashion models on par with those in computing. Regardless, the United States must not close its doors to immigrants who may want to contribute to our entrepreneurial spirit. Expanding the H-1B program is an important first step.
3 June 2012